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Series V 
Volume 5 

National Security 
Agency 

Central Security 
Service 



CCH-E05B-01-01 



The InvtsihCe CryptoCbgists: 
J^rican-JAmericanSy 1 VWII to 1956 



































Table of Contents 

Page 


Foreword.v 

Acknowledgments.vii 

Introduction .l 

Chapter l - Race Relations on the Home Front at the 

Onset of WWII .2 

Chapter 2 - 1939-1946: African-Americans Join the SIS .5 

Chapter 3 - 1944-1946: The Commercial Code Unit .10 

Chapter 4 - 1947: Changing Demographics.15 

Chapter 5 - 1948-1951: The Dark Side of the Golden Age of 

Russian Plain Text .19 

Chapter 6 - 1948-1951: Wanted - 

Key Punchers and Equipment Operators.24 

Chapter 7 - 1948: R&D - A Different Kind of Place.27 

Chapter 8 - 1951: Color Barrier Broken in Security Division .30 

Chapter 9 - 1950-1954: Strides toward Broad Integration; 

Breakup of the Plantation.33 


Epilogue 


39 



















Foreword 


The origins of this book were in the cryptologic 
equivalent of an urban legend and a couple of pho¬ 
tographs. 

During research on the early days of NSA, his¬ 
torians at the Center for Cryptologic History (CCH) 
learned of the employment of African-Americans at 
the Agency in the period after World War II. 
Occasionally, in informal conversations with for¬ 
mer NSA seniors, the subject of minority history 
would come up, and CCH historians collected anec¬ 
dotes about segregated offices in the early days. It 
became apparent that the employment of African- 
Americans came even earlier than previously 
thought. No information, however, confirmed any 
contribution by African-Americans during the 
world war. 

In early 1996, the History Center received as a 
donation a book of rather monotonous photo¬ 
graphs of civilian employees at one of NSA’s prede¬ 
cessors receiving citations for important contribu¬ 
tions. Out of several hundred photographs, only 
two included African-Americans - an employee 
receiving an award from Colonel Preston 
Corderman (reproduced on page 14) and the same 
employee posing with his family. 

Although undated, the matrix of the photo¬ 
graph indicated it had been taken in 1945 or early 
1946. This made it likely the person was receiving 
an award for wartime contributions. 

It therefore became a high priority in the 
History Center to investigate the story behind this 
photograph and learn the truth behind the uncon¬ 
nected anecdotes about African-Americans in the 
early days of the cryptologic organization. 

In 1998 it became possible to hire a few addi¬ 
tional historians for a year to supplement the 
History Center’s permanent staff. Ms. Jeannette 


Will i ams applied to research the early history of 
African-Americans in cryptology. 

Assisted by Ms. Yolande Dickerson, Ms. 
Williams undertook an exhaustive search of the 
cryptologic archives and recovered the basic story 
of the segregated cryptologic organizations - 
including the previously unknown existence of a 
large office of African-Americans in World War II. 

The basic facts about this unit preserved in offi¬ 
cial records, however, shed little light on the social 
milieu of the time or the eventual movement of 
African-Americans into the cryptologic main¬ 
stream. 

Compiling - and constantly expanding - a list 
of names of African-Americans who worked in the 
early days of NSA and its predecessor organiza¬ 
tions, they conducted an exceedingly vigorous pro¬ 
gram of oral history interviews. These interviews 
personalized the stark facts found in the docu¬ 
ments. 

In fact, this monograph rescues an important 
historical story that might otherwise have been lost. 
It should also be noted that this was a last-minute 
rescue. Several important figures had already 
passed away by the time the research for this book 
began, and several more have passed away between 
the time of their interviews and the publication of 
this book. 

The story that the author tells is by turns infuri¬ 
ating and inspiring. But it needs to be faced square¬ 
ly from both these aspects. 

I recommend The Invisible Cryptologists: 
African-Americans, WWII to 1956 as essential 
reading for all who are interested in the early days 
of cryptology, all who are interested in the social 
history of NSA and its predecessors, and all who are 
interested in the history of American race relations. 


Page v 



For further background on cryptologic activities 
during World War II and the early days of NSA, 
readers are encouraged to refer to A History of U.S. 
Communications Intelligence during World War 
II: Policy and Administration by Robert L. Benson 
and The Origins of the National Security Agency 
by Thomas L. Burns (forthcoming). Both publica¬ 
tions are available from the Center for Cryptologic 
History. 


David A. Hatch 

Director, Center for Cryptologic History 


Page vi 



Acknowledgments 


My friend and assistant, Yolande Dickerson, 
must share the credit for whatever is right with this 
book. Appointment setter, record keeper, tran¬ 
scriber, and researcher - she did it all, and with 
marvelous good cheer. Thank you, Yolande. 

For the inspiration that sparked this project and 
for critical reviews of many drafts, I am thankful to 
Dr. David Hatch of the Center for Cryptologic 
History (CCH). Dr. Thomas Johnson, formerly of 
the Center, was my early mentor, and I am indebt¬ 
ed to him for his professional guidance and quick 
friendship. Others at NSA that must be remem¬ 
bered at this time are the Archives Division staff, 
particularly Danny Wilson, Mike Scott, John 
Hanson, and Tom Lubey, who were so responsive 
to my many, many requests; Barry Carleen and 
Barbara Vendemia of the CCH Publications team, 
for their skillful editing; Lou Benson and Patricia 
Brown, Office of Security, for historical information 
on security matters; and Patricia Nelson of the 
Phoenix Society, for providing critical data that 
enabled us to contact numerous Agency retirees. 

James Gilbert, INSCOM Historian, deserves 
special recognition for directing me to an Army his¬ 
tory that named the early African-American cryp- 
tologists. John Taylor of the National Archives and 
Records Administration also provided important 
lead information as well as outstanding file 
retrieval support. Thank you, John. 

For the support of my husband Walter, daugh¬ 
ter Darice, son Erik, and sister Thomasina, I am 
and always will be deeply grateful. They understood 
that, given the opportunity, I was obligated to write 
this history, not only to document the contributions 
of the early African-American cryptologists to the 
Agency’s mission, but also to help identify for 
today’s cryptologists the roots of the racial concerns 
that plagued NSA for decades afterwards. If I have, 
in any small way, met this obligation, it is due to the 
unselfish participation of the many former Agency 


employees who told me their stories. To them, my 
profoundest thanks. To the African-Americans 
among them who served at Arlington Hall, I am 
particularly grateful, for though the memories were 
sometimes painful, they freely shared their experi¬ 
ences, their disappointments, and their successes. 
To them, this book is fondly dedicated. 


Jeannette Williams 


Page vii 




Introduction 


This is the story of African-Americans 
employed by the National Security Agency, and its 
forerunners at Arlington Hall Station, from 1939 to 
1956. It is, in part, an organizational history, since 
for most of that period, the overwhelming majority 
of African-Americans were segregated in primarily 
support elements, consistent with army policies 
and U.S. mores. It is also, in part, a cryptologic his¬ 
tory, since technology and intelligence require¬ 
ments factored enormously into African-American 
hiring and manpower utilization. For these aspects 
of the book, documents held in the NSA Archives as 
well as in the National Archives and Records 
Administration yielded a wealth of information. 

But at its essence this book is about people who 
during WWII and the first decade of the Cold War 
were limited primarily to positions in the federal 
agency akin to those held in the private sector - 
critical, but low-paying, support jobs. Extensive 
oral interviews of both blacks and whites who 
worked there during the period added the human 


dimension to the research data and revealed the 
tremendous gulf between America’s promise of 
equality and the reality, even within the federal 
bureaucracy. 

The exhaustive interviews conducted for this 
book also include testimonies to the changes that 
occurred within the Agency, reflective of progress 
after President Truman’s February 1948 message to 
Congress on civil rights and the issuance of 
Executive Order 9981 later that year which man¬ 
dated the integration of the armed services. The 
book closes in 1956 as NSA is reorganizing and relo¬ 
cating to Fort Meade, Maryland. As part of the reor¬ 
ganization, a large, predominantly black organiza¬ 
tion, one of the most visible symbols of racial divi¬ 
sion within the Agency, was dismantled. Thus 
ended a major chapter in the Agency’s social histo¬ 
ry, but for years afterward, issues of fairness and 
equality would continue to be at the forefront of the 
consciousness of many African-Americans at the 
National Security Agency. 


Page 1 




Chapter 1 - Race Relations on the Home Front at the Onset ofWWII 


Though thirteen million American 
Negroes have more often than not been 
denied democracy, they are American citi¬ 
zens and will as in every war give unquali¬ 
fied support to the protection of their 
country. At the same time we shall not 
abate one iota our struggle for full citizen¬ 
ship rights here in the United States. We 
will fight but we demand the right to fight 
as equals in every branch of military, naval 
and aviation service. - From minutes of 
NAACP Board of Directors meeting, 8 December 
1941 1 

The African-American experience at Arlington 
Hall Station (AHS), home of the National Security 
Agency and its Army predecessor organizations 
from 1942 to the mid-fifties, was shaped by a com¬ 
plex set of forces. In the simplest terms, African- 
American employment, as was that of individuals in 
any other group, was dictated by the intelligence 
needs of the nation’s political and military leaders. 
The volume of target communications to be exploit¬ 
ed that would provide the needed information and 
the systems available to process the data translated 
into manpower requirements. The nature of that 
employment, however, and the surrounding cultur¬ 
al environment reflected broader issues - the racial 
policies of the U.S. Army and the state of racial inte¬ 
gration in America at large. 

Although, to its credit, the racially integrated 
U.S. Army of the mid-fifties was a decade ahead of 
most civilian institutions on civil rights issues, the 
army of the early forties was viciously Jim Crow: 

... The policy of the War department is not 
to intermingle colored and white person¬ 
nel in the same regimental organizations. 

This policy has been proven satisfactory 
over a long period of years and to make 


changes would produce situations destruc¬ 
tive to morale and detrimental to the 
preparations for national defense. - Memo 
from Robert P. Patterson, Assistant Secretary of 
War, to President Roosevelt, 27 September 1940 2 

In December 1941, nearly 100,000 African- 
Americans were serving in the racially segregated 
U.S. Army, the vast majority in infantry, engineer¬ 
ing, and quartermaster units. Less than 2 percent of 
enlistees were in the Signal Corps, and over the next 
seven months that percentage declined to less than 
1 percent. 3 The basis for the Army position on 
African-American integration 4 was threefold. The 
two most commonly cited reasons were that the 
Army reflected the desires of the American people 
and was not an instrument for social change, and 
that it was efficient to use personnel according to 
their skills and capabilities. General George C. 
Marshall, Army chief of staff, articulated these 
arguments in a 1 December 1941 memorandum to 
Secretary of War Henry Stimson: 

The problems presented with reference 
to utilizing Negro personnel in the army 
should be faced squarely. In doing so, the 
following facts must be recognized: first 
that the War Department cannot ignore 
the social relationship between Negroes 
and whites which has been established by 
the American people through custom and 
habit; second, that either through lack of 
educational opportunities or other causes 
the level of intelligence and occupational 
skill of the Negro population is consider¬ 
ably below that of the white; third, that the 
army will attain its maximum strength 
only if its personnel is [sic] properly 
placed in accordance with the capabilities 
of individuals; and fourth, that experi¬ 
ments within the army in the solution of 


Page 2 




social problems are fraught with dan¬ 
ger to efficiency, discipline, and 
morale. 

. . the level of intelligence and occupational 
skill of the Negro population is considerably below 
that of the white.” The third plank underpinning 
the Army’s rigid segregationist policies was the 
belief that African-Americans were inferior. An 
Army War College (AWC) study published in 
October 1925 concluded that “the black man was 
physically unqualified for combat duty; was by 
nature subservient, mentally inferior, and believed 
himself to be inferior to the white man; was suscep¬ 
tible to the influence of crowd psychology; could 
not control himself in the face of danger; and did 
not have the initiative and resourcefulness of the 
white man.” 6 

Twelve years later, a similar “study” purported 
to present the Negro personality characteristics 
that commanders were likely to meet: “As an indi¬ 
vidual the negro is docile, tractable, lighthearted, 
care free and good-natured. If unjustly treated he is 
likely to become surly and stubborn, though this is 
usually a temporary phase. He is careless, shiftless, 
irresponsible and secretive. He resents censure and 
is best handled with praise and by ridicule. He is 
unmoral, untruthful and his sense of right doing is 
relatively inferior.” 7 

The significance of these and other AWC stud¬ 
ies cannot be underestimated. Historian Alan Osur 
concluded that the 1925 study “establishes the 
impact of racism upon the minds of these field 
grade officers of the 1920s who, generally speaking, 
would become the commanders in World War II. 
The importance of their early learning cannot be 
overstated in understanding their subsequent 
behavior.” 8 

Clarence Toomer, an African-American NSA 
retiree, was a young Army enlistee in 1942. 
Interviewed in January 2000, he recalled his per¬ 


sonal experience with army mandated segregation 
during World War II: 

I grew up and went to school in 
Fayetteville, North Carolina. After the 
third year of high school, I decided that I 
wanted to see the world and I went off and 
joined the army. This was in 1942. 

I was in the Quartermaster Corps. It’s 
transportation now. We moved trucks and 
supplies or anything that had to be moved. 

It was an all-black regiment except for the 
officers. We first went to the West Coast, 
then we were shipped to Australia. In fact, 

I was on the maiden voyage of the Queen 
Elizabeth. They brought the ship to San 
Francisco to protect it from being dam¬ 
aged by the Germans while it was still 
under construction. Then they converted it 
to a troop ship. We had 10,000 troops on 
that ship, stacked four high in elaborate 
cabins which had forty people in them. It 
took thirty-nine days to zigzag across the 
Pacific. 

You hear all kinds of stories about 
Australians not liking blacks, but the citi¬ 
zens were cordial. They received us with 
open arms. The people in Melbourne had 
Sunday teas in their homes and churches 
and would invite the black troops, and we 
went. They also had skating rinks in the 
city, but the white Americans identified a 
recreation area for black troops only. The 
American government, the American mili¬ 
tary did that - not the Australians. 

Of course, the Army was right about one thing; 
it did largely reflect civilian attitudes. Schools, 
housing, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, and 
recreational facilities were legally segregated by 
race in much of the country. Carl Dodd, the grand¬ 
son of slaves, was a War Department messenger 
and clerk for approximately six years before joining 
the Army Security Agency, an NSA forerunner, in 


Page 3 


1948. He vividly remembers the discrimination and 
intimidation endured by blacks in rural North 
Carolina during the Depression: 

I grew up poor in Smithville. I went to 
school many days in coveralls and bare 
feet, and my parents couldn’t afford to buy 
books. In North Carolina, they didn’t fur¬ 
nish [blacks with] books until somewhere 
around 1936 or 1937. Of course, the 
schools were segregated. Some black kids 
could buy books, but many couldn’t. I used 
to borrow books from my classmates dur¬ 
ing activity periods and read in the library. 
There was a large family of us and we just 
couldn’t do things. We owned our land and 
home. That’s it. My daddy sold a tremen¬ 
dous amount of land during the ‘30s trying 
to survive. Nobody worked much but my 
dad, and he was born of a slave parent. 
When I speak about him, it hurts me. He 
couldn’t read or write, but he wanted his 
kids to get an education. We got what we 
could. 


I came to Washington in 1941, because 
the Ku Klux Klan activity was terrible, and 
I had many, many fights with white people. 

My uncle was hit by a car, and I still don’t 
understand it. An automobile at that time, 
mostly an A-model Ford or a T-model 
Ford, came by maybe every thirty minutes. 

So he had to have been put in front of a car 
and then hit. Many blacks were killed, and 
nobody ever knew and nobody ever cared. 

My mother and father thought it best that I 
leave. I was seventeen years old. 9 

The African-American press and civil rights 
organizations pressed the Roosevelt administra¬ 
tion, the military, and the nation’s political parties 
for change. The contradiction between an America 
at war against fascism abroad while inflicting racial 
injustices on its citizens at home was inescapable. 
This national struggle over equality became the 
impetus for a sea change in the employment of 
African-Americans at AHS. 


Page 4 


Chapter 2 - 1939-1946: African-Americans Join the SIS 


German Army Attacks Poland; 

Cities Bombed 

Havas, French news agency, announced 
that a German declaration of war against 
Poland probably will lead France and 
Great Britain to take new military meas¬ 
ures. Britain and France are committed to 
aid Poland in any fight to save her inde¬ 
pendence. - New York Times, September 1, 

1939 

At the outbreak of the war in Europe in 1939, 
the Signals Intelligence Service (SIS), 10 the fledg¬ 
ling U.S. cryptologic organization, had been in exis¬ 
tence less than ten years. Created in 1930 in the 
Army’s Office of the Chief Signal Officer (OCSigO), 
it represented the consolidation of the missions of 
two post-WWI organizations. First, the SIS was to 
develop secure codes for U.S. military communica¬ 
tions (communications security or COMSEC), for¬ 
merly the responsibility of the Code and Cipher 
Section in the OCSigO. During wartime, it was also 
to intercept and solve enemy code and cipher mes¬ 
sages (communications intelligence or COMINT), a 
role that had been assigned to the Cipher Bureau 
(MI-8) of the General Staff during WWI and con¬ 
tinued primarily as a training mission after demo¬ 
bilization. At its formation, William F. Friedman, 
the Army’s foremost cryptologist in the Code and 
Cipher Section, was named to lead the new organi¬ 
zation. After hiring a secretary, Miss Louise 
Newkirk, he acquired four “junior cryptanalysts” - 
three mathematicians - Frank Rowlett, Abe 
Sinkov, and Solomon Kullback, and a Japanese lin¬ 
guist, John Hurt. Added to this small contingent 
during that first year were an Army officer, Captain 
Norman Lee Baldwin, whose job would be to estab¬ 
lish the Second Signal Service Company, the inter¬ 
cept division of SIS; Lieutenant Mark Rhodes, a 
Signal Corps officer; and Larry Clark, a chemistry 


major who would analyze secret inks. These few 
individuals comprised the SIS in December 1930. 11 

In his account of the history of the SIS, William 
Friedman was unequivocal about the initial basis of 
the small organization’s cryptanalytic activities. 
Interception and decoding of foreign communica¬ 
tions were to be undertaken as training in prepara¬ 
tion for the execution of its wartime mission, not as 
peacetime activities. Particularly interesting infor¬ 
mation uncovered as a by-product of this training 
would be shown to the Army Assistant Chief of 
Staff, G2, but there was not a functioning peacetime 
mission to actively collect and exploit the commu¬ 
nications of targeted foreign governments. 12 It was 
in the execution of this training mission during the 
mid-i930s, however, that SIS made an indelible 
impression on senior War Department officials and 
paved the way for its future expansion. By 1933, the 
monitoring stations in Fort Monmouth, New 
Jersey, and at the Presidio in San Francisco were 
regularly providing intercepts of Japanese diplo¬ 
matic communications (commonly referred to as 
“traffic”), the War Department’s highest priority 
intelligence target. In 1936, the SIS, chiefly Frank 
Rowlett, broke the Japanese diplomatic code gen¬ 
erated by the “Red” machine and used for their 
most sensitive communications. The recovered 
plaintext messages gave the nation’s policy makers 
and military leaders unprecedented insight into the 
developing political ties between Japan, Germany, 
and Italy. 

Thus, although fewer than twenty people com¬ 
prised the SIS in mid-1939, it had established its 
value to the national leadership and plans existed 
for both gradual, modest, peacetime growth and 
contingency expansion during a national emer¬ 
gency. Eleven days after Hitler’s army goose- 
stepped into Poland, the Chief Signal Officer rec¬ 
ommended that funds be released for the acquisi- 


Page 5 




tion of twenty-five additional civilians and more 
equipment in preparation for implementing its 
wartime mission. This was soon revised to reflect a 
request for funds for expansion, to include funds 
for twenty-six (rather than twenty-five) additional 
civilians. The final recommendation was approved, 
and by the end of the year expansion of the SIS pro¬ 
fessional force of cryptologists and linguists had 
begun. 13 

Although neither reflected in the War 
Department authorization letter nor noted in the 
histories, the tiny secret agency was increased by at 
least one other employee in late 1939. 



On 13 November, 
Bernard W. Pryor, a 
thirty-nine-year- 
old former 
motorcycle 
messenger for 
the Navy 
Department, 
entered on 
duty as the 
SIS messen¬ 
ger. Almost 
certainly he 
was the first 
African 
American to be 
hired at the 
agency. 14 


Bernard Pryor 
(later photo) 


“In 1938, of the 9,717 Negroes regularly 
employed by the federal government in 
Washington, 90 percent held custodial jobs for 
which the top annual pay rate was $1,260; only 
9.5 percent had clerical jobs, and only 47 men 
had suhprofessional rank.” 15 


“The population of the metropolitan 
[Washington, D.C.] area mushroomed from 
621,000 in 1930 to well over a million by the 
end of 1941. Seventy thousand new people 
arrived in the first year after Pearl Harbor 
alone. Government employment had more 
than doubled since the beginning of 1940, and 
more than five thousand new federal workers 
were pouring into Washington every month, 
often bringing their families with them.” 

David Brinkley, Washington Goes To War (New 
York, NY, 1988), 107 


SIS personnel authorizations, by July 1942, had 
increased to 364 civilians and 121 officers. 16 Already 
desperately short of space at the Munitions 
Building, but still expanding to support the war 
effort, the Army purchased a women’s junior col¬ 
lege at 4000 Lee Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia, for 
the burgeoning agency. The new location had an 
added advantage. The now vital SIS would be 
removed from downtown Washington where it was 
believed it was more vulnerable to enemy bombing 
or agent activity. 17 By the end of the summer, most 
of the agency had relocated to what came to be 
called Arlington Hall Station (AHS). 

Frequently described as a beautiful, campus¬ 
like facility, AHS experienced rapid wartime 
growth. By mid-July 1943, 1,713 civilians, 157 offi¬ 
cers, and 240 enlisted personnel 18 were distributed 
across six sections, most under the direction of a 
military officer: 

Chief, Signal Security Agency 

Colonel W. Preston Corderman 

Director of Communications Research 

Mr. William F. Friedman 


A Branch/Protective Security 

Major J.C. Sheetz 


Page 6 









B Branch/Cryptanalytic 

(solution of codes and ciphers) 

Lt. Colonel Earle F. Cooke 

C Branch/Cryptographic 

(communications security) 

Colonel Clinton B. Allsopp 

D Branch/Laboratory 

(secret inks) 

Lt. Colonel A.J. McGrail 

E Branch/Communications 

Lt. Colonel H. McD. Brown 

F Branch/Development 

Major Leo Rosen 

(From Organizational Chart, Signal Security 
Service, 15 April 1943-1 March 1944 (NSA Archives, 
Accession No. 18675)). 

The larger population of linguists, cryptana¬ 
lysts, engineers, and mathematicians was reflected 
in the increased hiring of messengers, probably all 
of whom were Afro-American. By mid-1943, Bernie 
Pryor was the senior messenger of fifteen, but one 
SIS researcher’s comments suggest they were 
stereotyped as “colored” servants of limited intelli¬ 
gence: 

It often happens that translators in dis¬ 
tant wings are too remote and hot to bring 
questions personally. An attempt has been 
made to improve the situation by utilizing 
North Carolina messengers. They come, 
but either have not understood the mes¬ 
sage or have forgotten it on the way. 19 

* * * * 

The nation’s capital that drew the new civil ser¬ 
vants, both black and white, was a boom town. 
Seventeen-year-old Carl Dodd was a construction 
worker in the District of Columbia before becoming 
a messenger in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer 


during WWII. In his oral interview, he vividly 
described the living conditions for many African- 
American residents during this period of rapid 
expansion and provided a telling glimpse of the 
state of civil rights in the capital city as the country 
entered WWII. 

Washington was very, very poor at that 
time. Where the Pentagon building is, 
there used to be a Hot Shoppe and an air¬ 
field. There was a ‘colored’ area right near 
there called Queen City. The Pentagon 
took all the property these people had. 

Then they built houses for the people that 
they had thrown out. That is when I saw 
the first low income housing - off of 
Columbia Pike, near Arlington — right near 
the Navy Department. It was called 
Johnson Hill. The people had to have some 
place to live; however, some of these build¬ 
ings were like shanties, and they had 
cesspools - no plumbing. But it was their 
homes. You can’t pay somebody $200 or 
$250 for a house and replace it for that 
amount of money, but that’s what the gov¬ 
ernment did. Just like they did in south¬ 
west [District of Columbia]. Many of those 
houses in southwest had no plumbing. 

They had a big truck to come around and 
pick up the sewage from the houses in big 
buckets. They used to call it the ‘honey 
wagon’, and you could smell it for blocks. 

People lived wherever they could get low 
rent. When I first came to Washington [in 
1941], I lived in a room on Fairfax Drive, 
and I got a job doing construction work. I 
paid $3.50 a week for my room, and I got 
$7.00 a week as a salary. When I went into 
the government in 1942, I was hired as a 
CU [custodial] 3 [$1,200 per year]. After 
taxes, I took home $42 every two weeks. So 
I had clothes, rent, food - everything to 
take care of. I had nothing left. Things 
weren’t good, but a lot of black people 


Page 7 


came to Washington thinking things were 
much better than they really were. 

My first government job in 1942 was as a 
messenger for the Office of the Chief 
Signal Officer, and I was at the Munitions 
Building at 2nd and T Street, Southwest 
[District of Columbia]. At that time, the 
cafeteria was segregated. I think it was 
desegregated about the same time as the 
Pentagon was completed. Roosevelt 
ordered that there would be no more seg¬ 
regation in the cafeteria. Prior to then, we 
could not go into it. They had little cubby 
holes in the back where you could go and 
get food, if you wanted, but I didn’t go 
there. I went to a place on the wharf called 
Benny Bordnick’s. We couldn’t go in there 
and sit down either, but we could buy their 
fish sandwiches, crabcakes, or whatever 
we wanted and take it back. We got a good 
buy, and we got good food. There was 
another place called Cadillac, a black 
place, but we always went to Benny 
Bordnick’s and brought our food back. 

* * * * 

In early 1944, Colonel W. Preston Corderman, 
a 1926 West Point graduate from Hagerstown, 
Maryland, was chief of what was then being 
called the Signal Security Agency. Earle F. 
Cooke, who once headed the COMSEC side 
of the agency (C Branch), was chief of the 
cryptanalysis effort (B Branch). 
Interviewed years later, General Cooke 
described a pivotal conversation between 
the two that led to the creation of a segre¬ 
gated unit of black cryptologists at AHS. 

Eleanor Roosevelt, through her 
channels ... had the Signal Corps 
advise that... twelve percent or 
fifteen percent of our personnel had to 
be black and gainfully employed. A 
problem. We had one who was a mes¬ 


senger. I can’t remember his name. 
Racked my brain and I can’t remember it. 
Anyway, the problem was, what do we do 
now, because here we have a directive and 
we’re going to have to put a lot of black 
people to work. We decided, I guess I did, 
because Corderman said to me,‘Your job. 
I’m not going to have them on any other 
staff. I’m going to have them on your staff, 
okay?’ The problem [was] what to do and I 
decided I’m going to keep this bunch as a 
unit and find something which they can do 
worthwhile. The only help I had in select¬ 
ing black personnel was this messenger. 
Well, I liked the guy. He was a good guy, 
and he was a hard-working guy and I told 
him I got this problem. I got to have about 
a hundred and some odd people of your 
race (‘niggers’ in that day), and I says, 
you’re my personnel officer to see that I get 
the right ones. Did a marvelous job. Where 
the hell he got them and how he got them, 
I knew not. I put him in touch with the per¬ 
sonnel people and said, that guy is my rep¬ 
resentative in hiring these people. Your 
job is to hire them when he says so. And he 
did. I haven’t the slightest idea 
[what criteria he used], but 
we gave them some stuff 
working on some Allied 
system. I don’t know 
what system we had 
them on. ... It 
doesn’t matter. 
The output, of 
course, was more 
or less negative 
. . . but so what? 
We had the unit, 
had no problem. 20 



Page 8 




[Editor’s Note: There is no actual documenta¬ 
tion that Mrs. Roosevelt ordered the hiring of 
African-Americans either in the Signal Corps or at 
AHS. Given the nature of the social picture at the 
time, however, such actions needed the interven¬ 
tion of “someone in a high place."] 

The messenger whose name General Cooke 
could no longer recall was William (Bill) Coffee, 
once a houseman and waiter at the Arlington Hall 
School for Girls, who was then working for Bernie 
Pryor. Born in Abingdon, Virginia, in 1917, Mr. 
Coffee studied English at Knoxville College, 
Tennessee, in 1936 after attending the Kings 
Mountain Training School in Abingdon. During the 
closing years of the Depression, from 1937 to 1940, 
he was enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps. 
Thereafter followed a series of jobs as a waiter, 
before he was hired in September 1941 by the 


Arlington Hall School for Girls. When the Army 
acquired the property, Mr. Coffee applied for a fed¬ 
eral position and was hired as a junior janitor for 
the SIS in June 1942, eventually being promoted to 
messenger. In January 1944, after Earle F. Cooke 
tapped him to satisfy Mrs. Roosevelt’s concerns, he 
set about building a unit that would be “gainfully 
employed.” His job title was officially changed to 
cryptographic clerk in June of that year, and an 
organizational chart dated 15 November 1944 iden¬ 
tified him as Assistant Civilian In Charge of B-3-b, 
with nineteen subordinate civilians. 21 Their mis¬ 
sion was not the analysis of Allied codes, as General 
Cooke recalled, but the exploitation of commercial 
coded messages. Several military officers very 
briefly served as chief of the unit before the position 
was assumed by Benson K. Buffham in mid-1944, 
who held it first as a young military officer, then as 
a civilian, until February 1947. 


Page 9 


Chapter 3 — 1944 - 1946 : The Commercial Code Unit 


yeqyx ipeoa ipeco caozr ivmzi oatab 


(Pineapple must be packed very carefully. 
Mark outside of packages plainly, with 
gross and net weights. Customers will pay 
for cost of transshipment. Telegraph us at 
time shipment is made.) 

orutl yeqyx oczom 


(In accordance with your telegram, 

pineapple will be shipped immediately.) - 

English texts and commercial code equivalents 
from Acme Commodity and Phrase Code, New 
York, 1923 

Very quickly after the introduction of the 
American Morse code for telegraphic messages, it 
was recognized that this new mode of communicat¬ 
ing seriously threatened privacy. Inserted between 
the originator and intended recipient of the infor¬ 
mation were persons who would translate it into 
the Morse symbols and key the message and other 
individuals to receive the message and render it 
readable for the recipient. The most sensitive data 
would, therefore, be accessible to these middlemen. 
Thus, in 1845 an associate of Samuel Morse pub¬ 
lished a code for Morse communications, “The 
Secret Corresponding Vocabulary; Adapted for Use 
to Morse’s Electro-Magnetic Telegraph,” to provide 
the message originator with a means of securing 
correspondence. 

As telegraph usage grew in the late 1840s and 
1850s, other codes for Morse communications 
appeared, but it was the laying of the first transat¬ 
lantic cable in 1866 that sparked an explosion of 
codes for Morse communications. The driver for 
this creativity was not secrecy, but economy, for the 
telegraph companies charged by the word, as well 
as according to the distance between the sender and 


the receiver. Consequently, the economies offered 
by the shorthand codes, which became known as 
“commercial codes,” were extremely attractive. 
Scores of industries developed lexicons that could, 
with a simple group of letters, convey multiple 
phrases or sentences. 22 During WWII, the informa¬ 
tion transmitted by foreign companies by this 
means was of interest to U.S. officials, since it could 
provide trade and travel data and some insight into 
the economic conditions of the companies’ host 
nations. 

An SIS unit of four people, all Caucasians, was 
actively exploiting foreign commercial coded mes¬ 
sages as early as February 1943. By May there were 
six, and in September 1943 eight people comprised 
B-2a-8, the Commercial Unit in the Code Recovery 
Section of the Cryptanalytic Branch. The unit was 
headed by a succession of junior Army officers in 
the fall of 1943, but gradually the personnel were 
transferred to other higher priority tasks, and by 
December 1943 the mission was completely aban¬ 
doned. 23 It was a situation tailor-made for the 
moment. No Caucasians were working the prob¬ 
lem, obviating the need to address the issue of an 
integrated work unit. Clearly the work was mean¬ 
ingful, but if no results were produced, it would 
only be a continuation of the status quo for the cus¬ 
tomers. On the other hand, if the unit proved pro¬ 
ductive, the results could be useful. Mrs. 
Roosevelt’s requirements could be met. 

In January 1944, Bill Coffee started his new 
assignment as a cryptographic clerk. Undoubtedly 
he underwent some cryptanalytic training, but a 
record of courses that he might have taken at the 
time is no longer available. Initially he worked 
alone; then in February 1944 Annie Briggs, who 
had worked with him in the messenger unit, joined 
him as his assistant. 24 The unit grew in size and, 
though clearly an operational unit with core mis- 


Page 10 






sion responsibilities, for several months it was 
retained as a staff element reporting to the chief of 
the Cryptanalytic Branch, consistent with 
Corderman’s direction to Cooke. A memorandum 
announcing one of the many Signal Security Agency 
reorganizations alluded to this inconsistency: 

Effective 21 August [1944], the 
Intelligence Division [formerly the 
Cryptanalytic Branch or B Branch] was 
organized to consist of an Office of the 
Division Chief and five operating branch¬ 
es. ... The Commercial Traffic Section has, 
for reasons of policy, been retained under 
the control of the Division Chief instead of 
being absorbed into the General 
Cryptanalytic Branch [one of the five sub¬ 
ordinate branches of the Intelligence 
Division], which might normally appear to 
be its proper location. 25 

Eventually, however, logic prevailed. By mid- 
November 1944, the unit became part of the 
General Cryptanalytic Branch, which was headed 
by Lieutenant Colonel Frank B. Rowlett, one of the 
four original cryptanalysts hired by William 
Friedman. Its designator became B-3-b. The orga¬ 
nizational chart reflects Lieutenant Benson K. 
Buffham as the chief and William D. Coffee, assis¬ 
tant civilian in charge. 26 

* * * * 

B-3-b, under Lieutenant Buffham and Bill 
Coffee, exploited nongovernmental commercial 
code messages originating from Australia, Great 
Britain, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, 
Bulgaria, Turkey, Afghanistan, Russia, China, 
Indochina, Thailand, Japan, Egypt, South Africa, 
Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, and 
Argentina. 27 

Conventional intercept sources and the Office of 
Censorship, which under the War Powers Act 
received copies of all cable traffic from the U.S. car¬ 
riers, supplied the raw material (messages) for the 


unit. Communications using both private codes and 
codes available on the open market were decoded. 
Messages that were found to be written in an 
unknown commercial code or in an enciphered 
commercial code, i.e., individual letters of the code 
phrase were substituted or transposed, were ana¬ 
lyzed to identify the underlying codebook and ulti¬ 
mately to recover the plain text. Additionally, the 
unit sorted and routed nongovernmental Spanish, 
French, Italian, Portuguese, German, and English 
plaintext messages, a task that formerly had been 
accomplished by the Traffic Unit. 28 



This work was accomplished by three sections. 
The largest, Production, led by Annie Briggs, iden¬ 
tified codes, decoded messages, and provided cleri¬ 
cal support. Ethel Just headed a small group of 
translators in the Language 
unit. Herman Phynes 
directed the last sec¬ 
tion, the B-3-b 
technical ele¬ 
ment charged 
with solving 
encipher¬ 
ments. 

Twenty- 
eight years 
into the 
future, 

Herman 
Phynes would 
be a GG-16, 
army flag officer 
equivalent, and 
NSA’s first 

African- Herman Phynes 

American office 
chief in the 

Operations Directorate. In March 1944, however, 
he was a subprofessional (SP)-5 cryptanalytic aide 
returning to government work after brief stints as 
an insurance salesman and a real estate agent. A 
Washington, D.C., native, he was a graduate of 
Dunbar High School and had a B.A. degree (1941) 
from Howard University. His earlier government 


Page 11 



service was as a clerk for the Internal Revenue 
Service and as a messenger and clerk in the War 
Department, but dissatisfied with both the pay and 
levels of responsibility, he left the civil service to 
seek work more consistent with his academic back¬ 
ground. 29 

One other significant personnel change 
occurred in 1944. Bernie Piyor, the messenger for 
the Signals Intelligence Service, was reassigned in 
April 1944 to the Personnel Branch as a clerk. 
Undoubtedly, with the anticipation of increased 
hiring of African-Americans came the realization 
that this segment of the workforce would require 
support services. He thus became a human 
resources unit for black employees, providing a 
variety of employee services, including orientation 
briefings, information on housing and recreational 
facilities, and counseling on work, family, and per¬ 
sonal financial matters. 30 

* * * * 



Benson K. Buffham, the administrative chief of 
B-3-b, had entered the Signal Corps in 1942, one 
year after graduating from 
Wesleyan University 
(Connecticut). In 
June 1999, he 
looked back 
nearly sixty 
years and 
recounted 
his first 
days at 
Arlington 
Hall and 
his early 
assignment 
as head of the 
first group of 
African- 
American 
cryptologists. 


Benson K. Buffham 


When I first went to Arlington Hall, I 
worked as a cryptanalyst (or cryppie) for 
about six months, working Japanese diplo¬ 
matic communications. Then, a very good 
friend of mine at the time, Captain Mike 
Maloney, who was Frank Rowlett’s plans 
and priorities officer, 31 was assigned over¬ 
seas, and he recommended to Colonel 
Rowlett that I replace him. So I became the 
plans and priorities officer on the staff of 
B3. It was then that I was also assigned, as 
one of my duties, the job with the just 
emerging black unit. Maloney had that job 
before me, and when I replaced him I took 
that job as well. I was introduced to Bill 
Coffee and became the head of the unit; 
however, Coffee was really the operating 
head of the unit. I had other jobs to do at 
the same time. He was full-time in that job, 
and he was really the expert. I was the 
reporting chain for them, so Coffee report¬ 
ed to me, and I got all of his reports and 
reviewed them. I wouldn’t say that I 
reviewed them all before they went out, 
but if they thought they had anything real¬ 
ly significant, Coffee would show it to me 
first. 

I was located maybe a hundred yards 
away from Coffee’s area at a desk outside 
Colonel Rowlett’s office. There were 
maybe fifteen or so people on the staff, 
including his secretary and personnel peo¬ 
ple. I didn’t have an office. The B-3-b unit 
was in a separate room. Colonel Rowlett 
was very interested in the unit and would 
visit them from time to time. Bill Coffee sat 
right at the head and was really in charge 
of that area. At the time, we had a large 
number of black Americans working in 
what I would call custodial type jobs at 
Arlington Hall, but Mr. Coffee’s unit was 
the only professional unit that I’m aware 
of. 


Page 12 







We had the Office of Censorship in 
World War II, and one of my jobs was to go 
down to Censorship every day and collect 
the international material which was flow¬ 
ing through them, but which they weren’t 
processing. They were only interested in 
things originating in or destined for the 
United States. Everything had to be filed 
with them, and they would examine mate¬ 
rial that was coming in or out of the U.S., 
but they wouldn’t be able to examine mate¬ 
rial that was going from Tokyo, for exam¬ 
ple, to a number of foreign cities. That 
[international] material all fell within the 
realm of responsibility of the SIS. All that 
material had to be examined by our com¬ 
mercial code unit. 

They [B-3-b analysts] were responsible 
for detecting anything that would be tran¬ 
spiring which wasn’t routine trade. Of 
course there was a great deal of traffic, 
because we were monitoring all the inter¬ 
national communications, particularly 
from Tokyo and Berlin - all the enemy 
traffic. But, it all had to be gone through, 
because you had to be sure that we weren’t 
missing something that would be a viola¬ 
tion of the international embargoes. 
Although item for item, it wasn’t as impor¬ 
tant as diplomatic traffic, they performed 
an invaluable service by going through all 
that material and making sure there was¬ 
n’t anything in it that would have been use¬ 
ful for us in the wartime effort. 32 

* * * * 

For several months, B-3-b continued to expand 
in mission and resources under Bill Coffee. In April 
1945, it was assigned responsibility for exploiting 
the diplomatic systems of Belgium, Haiti, Liberia, 


and Luxembourg, though there is no evidence that 
this mission developed past the research stage. By 
June, Bill Coffee was directing the efforts of thirty 
people distributed over six sections, plus a secre¬ 
tary. Most were engaged in the major activities of 
code identification and decoding; researching and 
analyzing unknown codes; and translating. 33 

Major international trade activity resumed fol¬ 
lowing the end of WWII with a concomitant sub¬ 
stantial rise in the volume of commercial coded 
messages, but agency postwar personnel losses 
were reflected in the sharply reduced manning of B- 
3-b (renamed WDGAS-93K when the Signals 
Security Division became the Army Security Agency 
in September 1945). In July 1946, it was composed 
of fewer than a dozen people. 

In February 1946, Bill Coffee was transferred to 
the Intercept Control Branch as the supervisor of a 
new typing unit which had been formed to augment 
the automatic morse transcription section of near¬ 
by Vint Hill Farms in Warrenton, Virginia. In the 
two years that he was associated with the 
Commercial Code unit, he had advanced from a 
CAF-3 ($1,620/year) to a CAF-5 ($2,430/year). 34 
Replacing him as assistant O.I.C. (officer in charge) 
of the African-American commercial code cryptolo- 
gists was his principal assistant, Herman Phynes. 

On 3 April 1946, General W. Preston 
Corderman, chief, Army Security Agency, present¬ 
ed William D. Coffee with the prestigious 
Commendation for Meritorious Civilian Service. 

In February 1947, the practice of having a 
Caucasian as the nominal head of the Commercial 
Code unit ended with the appointment of Herman 
Phynes to the position of O.I.C. He was a P-2 
(Professional Level -2) with an annual salary of 
$3,522.6 o. 35 


Page 13 



W illiam Coffee receiving the Meritorious Service 
Award from General W. Preston Corderman, Chief, 

ASA, 

3 April 1946 


Although B-3-b was a unique and unprecedent¬ 
ed organization, these early African-American 
cryptanalysts and translators appear to have been 
virtually invisible. Few former Agency employees 
who were interviewed and who worked at AHS dur¬ 
ing WWII had any knowledge of African-Americans 
in professional positions; most did not even recall 
seeing African-Americans on the campus. 


* * * ■ 55 - 


Page 14 












Chapter 4 — 1947: Changing Demographics 


From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the 
Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended 
across the Continent. Behind that line lie 
all the capitals of the ancient states of 
Central and Eastern Europe. - Winston 
Churchill at Westminster College, Fulton, 
Missouri, 5 March 1946 

The Soviet Union - the military intentions of its 
leaders, the success of its espionage efforts, the sta¬ 
tus of its advanced weapons and nuclear programs, 
and the globalization of its political ideology - dom¬ 
inated the American national psyche in the decades 
after WWII. The intelligence needs of the U.S. and 
its closest allies translated into manpower require¬ 
ments which, in the late 1940s to mid-1950s, were 
particularly acute at the GG-2/GG-3 level. Hiring of 
African-Americans rose dramatically, and by the 
early 1950s large concentrations existed in two 
areas of the Operations organization: machine pro¬ 
cessing (specifically, equipment operations and 
keypunch) and Russian plaintext processing. 
Among people of color, these areas came to be 
known as “Little Africa,” “the hole,” “the planta¬ 
tion,” and “the snakepit.” 

* * * * 

William Friedman is credited with introducing 
IBM equipment to the Signals Intelligence Service 
in 1935 for the compilation of War Department 
codes. The initial acquisition consisted of a key 
punch (to record the plain text that was to be 
encoded and the corresponding code groups); a 
sorter (to randomize the punched cards); and a 
printing tabulator. Not long after the machines 
were acquired, however, their utility to cryptanaly¬ 
sis was recognized. They became the tools to 
manipulate intercepted code groups and to perform 
exhaustive searches, frequency counts, compar¬ 


isons, and statistical computations in the effort to 
uncover the underlying plain text. Initially 
Friedman’s cryptanalysts operated the equipment, 
but this proved inefficient as additional equipment 
and personnel were acquired. In October 1939, two 
full-time experienced key punchers were hired, and 
the policy of training cryptanalysts on IBM equip¬ 
ment was discontinued. In December 1939, Ulrich 
Kropfl, a tabulating equipment operator from the 
new Social Security Administration, joined SIS and 
became the first chief of the machine section. 36 

One of the early members of the new section 
was Norm Willis, a 1942 graduate of McKinley High 
School in Washington, D.C., who entered on duty as 
a tabulating equipment operator. Interviewed in 
1999, Mr. Willis described his early assignment 
sorting Japanese army traffic and the section’s 
racial composition during the war years: 

There were intercept operators in the 
field, in Europe and in the Pacific, and they 
would intercept messages and would write 
them by hand. They then would somehow 
ship them back to the States, so you know 
by the time they arrived here, it was not 
time sensitive. The messages would come 
in, and we had a group of key punch oper¬ 
ators, mostly girls, but some military men 
as well, who would put them in card form. 

Then they would be edited, and once they 
were accurate they might be listed or 
batched in certain ways, according to the 
needs of the intelligence analyst. I was an 
operator on the midnight shift. We han¬ 
dled Japanese traffic, and I was responsi¬ 
ble for making sure that the cards were 
accurately punched from the traffic. For 
most of WWII, that is what I did, and the 
only black was a man named Bill Williams. 

He was custodial, but he also worked in 


Page 15 




supply. In other words, to punch cards, 
you had to buy these sixty-pound cartons 
of cards, five boxes of two thousand cards 
each. IBM would ship them in, and Bill 
Williams handled the unloading and load¬ 
ing, but there were no blacks at all in the 
machine section during WWII. 37 

Delores Schommer, one of the Agency’s first key 
punch operators, was initially hired in 1936 for the 
new Social Security Administration. It was there 
that she met Ulrich Kropfl, whom William 
Friedman selected in 1939 to head up the machine 
section. Upon his recommendation, in July 1940 
Mrs. Schommer transferred to SIS as a key punch 
operator. Although wartime requirements necessi¬ 
tated additional personnel, she too indicated the 
machine section was not integrated until later in 
the 1940s. 

Before the war, we had huge tabulators, 
and men like Sam Snyder, Larry Clark, 
and Dr. Kullback, testing out this new 
equipment to see what it could do. It was 
all very new. I know Ulrich wanted to get 
another tabulator, and he talked with 
General Akin about this. General Akin 
kinda huffed and finally ordered it, but it 
took quite a while to get it. Soon, I had 
three girls working with me. We decided to 
hire some more, so we hired five or six 
more who came to work at night. We were 
in a little room, probably not much bigger 
than 16 feet x 18 feet. Then the war came, 
and we needed to expand. They bought 
Arlington Hall, and built two buildings - A 
Building and B Building - and we moved 
on Thanksgiving Day of ‘42. I’m not sure 
when the first blacks came, but Geneva 
Arthur was one of the early ones. 39 

The year that the machine section first 
employed African-Americans cannot be pinpoint¬ 
ed. Though both Norm Willis and Delores 
Schommer claim there were no blacks in the unit 
during WWII, Mr. Willis recalls seeing, “sometime 


early on,” Alton B. Dunkinson, a technician who 
would “help in the development of special hard¬ 
ware that you connected to the IBM equipment.” 
According to David Shepard, who arrived at SIS in 
1944, “Tony” Dunkinson, once a signal man for the 
New York City subway system, was already there. 
His career with the agency, however, lasted only 
into the early fifties when he left to become an engi¬ 
neer at a systems development company formed by 
Mr. Shepard. 40 

The major influx of African-Americans into the 
machine section seems to have begun in 1947. 
Geneva Arthur, remembered by Delores Schommer 
as “one of the early ones,” entered on duty, with 
several others, in December of that year. 


“Most of the civilians that were hired during 
World War II were from North Carolina, 
Virginia, and the South. These were white, a lot 
of them young girls right out of high school. 
They did not have a history of eating with peo¬ 
ple of color. I don’t know when it was, but one 
day, in the cafeteria there was one of the other 
white workers eating lunch with [a black man]. 
That took nerve in that time. It took courage for 
the guy who was doing that because of the 
social environment.” 

Norm Willis, 11 January 1999 


Geneva Arthur entered on duty at the Army 
Security Agency in December 1947 and spent her 
entire career in the key punch unit, retiring in 1973 
as a section head. According to her, the key punch 
unit was always integrated, whites and African- 
Americans holding both supervisory and nonsuper- 
visory positions. 41 Documentation on the changes 
in the demographics of the machine section is 
unavailable, but most retirees formerly assigned 
there supported this view only with qualification. 
They claim that while in the mid- to late 1940s the 
organization was integrated, by the mid-fifties civil¬ 
ian African-Americans overwhelmingly dominated 


Page 16 




in nonsupervisory positions in the key punch and 
tabulating equipment units. Repeatedly, the per¬ 
ception was voiced that the relatively few white 
civilians who were assigned to entry-level positions 
in the organization eventually were either promot¬ 
ed to successively higher supervisory positions or 
transferred to other parts of the Agency. 

* * * * 



The ASA effort to exploit Russian plaintext traf¬ 
fic began in 1946 with the part-time assignment of 
several linguists to the target. At that time, howev¬ 
er, the Agency’s emphasis was on the translation of 
encrypted messages, and the employment of scarce 
Russian linguists on plain text was judged to be 
unwarranted. Later, in May 1947, the effort was 
revised at the Pentagon. Individuals without securi¬ 
ty clearances or with partial clearances would sift 
through volumes of messages and translate all or 
parts of those determined to have intelligence 
value. Placed in charge of this group was Jacob 
Gurin, an ASA Russian linguist who had immigrat¬ 
ed to the U.S. with his parents at the age of three. A 
graduate of New York University, “Jack” grew up in 

a Russian-speaking house¬ 
hold and spoke the 
language fluently. 
During the war, 
he served as a 
Japanese lin¬ 
guist for the 
U.S. Army, 
and after 
discharge, 
applied to 
the Army 
Security 
Agency. In 
1946, native- 
speaking 
Russian lan¬ 
guage ability 
was a valuable 
and rare com¬ 
modity. Security 


Jacob Gurin 
(later photo) 


concerns arising from his birthplace were resolved, 
and he joined the organization as a Russian lin¬ 
guist. Within months of his entry on duty, he engi¬ 
neered a revolutionary approach to the exploitation 
and reporting of Russian plaintext communica¬ 
tions. 42 

From the Agency’s inception under William 
Friedman, its business was the breaking of codes 
and ciphers. Once the underlying text was revealed, 
individual messages were translated, and, after a 
reporting mission was established, selected ones 
were published on 3” x 5” cards. While individual 
decrypted messages could be extremely valuable, 
plaintext messages were most often preformatted 
status reports that were insignificant when consid¬ 
ered singly. Jack Gurin was convinced that if these 
messages were assembled and analyzed in the 
aggregate, they could yield valuable information on 
Soviet defense capabilities. Initially, three linguists 
were assigned to him plus a writer/editor. Their 
task was to select messages that qualified for imme¬ 
diate translation and publication or which could be 
used in a research report on a subject of interest. 
Much of the intercept data was passed to the lin¬ 
guists by a group of processing personnel who 
would provide page print-outs of material that had 
been sent to the agency on tape. The tape conver¬ 
sion process involved running a paper tape of 
radioprinter signals through a machine (the CXCO 
tape printer) which read coded perforations and 
printed the corresponding Cyrillic characters. It 
was a repetitive, manual task requiring minimal 
cognitive sk i lls and initially was accomplished by a 
small number of whites, who gradually transferred 
out of the positions. According to Agency retiree 
Dave Bryant, he and fourteen other African- 
Americans transferred to ASA from the Census 
Bureau in 1947. They were assigned to this traffic 
processing unit, and from this small cadre of black 
communications clerks grew a large, essentially all¬ 
black division in the Operations Directorate of 
NSA. 43 


Page 17 







CXCO tape printer 



David Bryant, one of the original 
African-American employees in the 
Russian plaintext traffic processing unit, 
(later photo) 


Page 18 



























Chapter 5 — 1948 - 1951 : The Dark Side of the Golden Age of 

Russian Plain Text 


The development and expansion of the traffic 
processing unit are inextricably linked to the 
tremendous dependence on the exploitation of 
Russian communications for intelligence following 
Black Friday. That day, 25 August 1948, the chief of 
the Soviet General Staff declared that “the trans¬ 
mission of.. . messages is permitted only by land¬ 
line.” Within weeks, Soviet communications sys¬ 
tems that had been successfully exploited since 
1945 went off the air. The series of communications 
changes that began in November 1947 and culmi¬ 
nated on Black Friday were catastrophic. Out of this 
devastation, Russian plaintext communications 
emerged as the critical provider of intelligence on 
our primary Cold War adversary. 44 

Eighteen months after Black Friday, in March 
1950, the chairman of the United States 
Communication Intelligence Board (USCIB) 
Intelligence Committee wrote that Soviet plaintext 
traffic could, at least partially, fulfill two vital intel¬ 
ligence requirements: (a) Soviet intentions to make 
war and (b) Soviet capabilities to make war. 
Accordingly, the Armed Forces Security Agency 
(AFSA), as the agency was then named, was 
requested to accomplish complete processing of 
traffic. 45 By July 1950, over a million messages a 
month were being forwarded to AFSA for process¬ 
ing and exploitation. The plaintext exploitation unit 
stood at 170, and it was projected that by April 
1952, the volume of messages requiring processing 
would nearly double, requiring an additional 350 
people. 46 During the 1950/1951 time frame, 
Russian plain text was nearing its zenith in terms of 
intelligence priorities, collection resources, and 
personnel; and AFSA-213, 47 the all-black traffic 
processing branch (later a division) that came to be 
known as “the snakepit,” “the plantation,” and “the 
black hole of Calcutta,” was in full operation. 


All Russian plaintext traffic forwarded to 
Arlington Hall Station from U.S. sources was 
received in AFSA-213. In mid-1950, a paper deliv¬ 
ered to Captain Mason (AFSA-02, Chief of 
Operations), entitled the “Russian Plain Text 
Problem,” placed the AFSA-213 manning at 98 and 
projected the 1952 personnel requirement at 218. 
The paper also supplied a concise, descriptive 
account of the work performed in the traffic pro¬ 
cessing branch: 

The incoming material is of two types, 
printed messages and perforated radio 
printer tapes. The printed messages result 
from the collection of either . . . radio 
printer communications that were inter¬ 
cepted using standard teletype equipment 
or... morse transmissions that were tran¬ 
scribed from undulator tape recordings. 

. . . radio printer communications are 
recorded and printed on perforated tele¬ 
type tapes in the field, and the tapes are 
forwarded to AFSA for processing. 

Once the material arrives in the Traffic 
Division, the employees scan it for key 
words, addresses, and signatures. 
Messages that meet the selection criteria 
are assigned a two-digit routing number 
that separates them into homogenous 
groupings. Messages that are on tape are 
sent to the tape printing section for con¬ 
version to hard-copy. The selected, printed 
messages are then stamped with a one-up 
serial number and microfilmed. In the 
final step, they are sent to the sections of 
the plain text branch, according to the two- 
digit routing number assigned during the 
initial scanning process . 48 


Page 19 




William Jones worked in AFSA-213 from 
November 1951 until mid-1955. In an oral interview 
thirty years later, he provided a remarkably similar 
account of the process, but added the human 
dimension. 

After I was hired and cleared, I was 
marched down to the first wing, first floor 
of A Building and escorted into what was a 
huge wing, and in there was nothing but 
black people, except there was an Air 
Force major in charge of that operation. 
When you walked in the door, there were 
long tables, at least twenty feet long, per¬ 
haps three and a half/four feet wide, lined 
up against the wall on both sides of the 
wing with an aisle down the middle. On 
each of those tables there must have been 
eight, possibly ten machines that were like 
typewriters, except they were printers. 

They had a little device on the side of them 
that would read a tape; this was five-level 
punch paper tape. You put the tape in the 
reader, start the machine, and the 
machine would type what was on the tape 
in hard copy. We only had to type a head¬ 
ing on the page which consisted of basic 
data like the TO and FROM, the intercept 
station designator, and the date and time 
of intercept. 

Well, it didn’t take long to pick that oper¬ 
ation up. I knew that somewhere people 
were selecting messages, and I began to 
wonder how did they pick some messages 
and throw some away. So as a result, I 
enrolled in a Russian course at the 
Department of Agriculture. Soon, I was off 
the machines and pulling tapes, based on 
keywords. Once we pulled the tapes, we 
bundled them in categories and put num¬ 
bers on them that designated subject 
areas. But it was a little more complicated 
than that. Many times the print on the tape 
was not clear, so we had to read the 
punched holes. I think what we did was 


critical because we threw away what we 
thought wasn’t any good. If there was any¬ 
thing good in there, it was lost — it went in 
the burn bag. We were called ‘scanners’. 

We heard nothing about career choices 
or moving to any other place. I went to the 
Department of Agriculture to take Russian 
because I didn’t know they would teach it 
here. There were people in that place 
[AFSA-213] who had degrees, had teaching 
experience, and a bunch of them had 
advanced degrees. It was kind of revealing, 

I think, to ultimately find out that most of 
the black people who came to the Agency, 
no matter the kind of experience they had, 
wound up there. 49 

* * * * 

The grade range in AFSA-213 was low. Many, 
including Dick Hill, who retired as a GG-15 division 
chief, attested to the fact that new employees 
entered as a GG-2 or GG-3, despite having a college 
degree or work experience. 

I was working at the Bureau of Engraving 
and Printing and had a master’s degree in 
psychology from Howard University. I was 
looking for better employment, and I sub¬ 
mitted an application to the agency. They 
were hiring, and I was told that I was qual¬ 
ified to come in as a GS-7; however, they 
didn’t have any GS-7 openings at the time. 

I called back; they still didn’t have any 
openings at a 7 level, but they had some 
GS-5 openings. I could come in as a 5. I 
decided that if I was qualified for a GS-7, 
there was no sense coming in as a 5, and I 
would wait a little longer. Well, I called 
and called, and I finally got to the point 
where I really wanted to get away from the 
bureau. When I called again, they didn’t 
have any GS-5 openings; they offered me a 
GS-3, and I accepted. I was hired and sent 
to whatever that number was — 294 or 


Page 20 


what not. It was entirely black with the 
exception of the division chief. The deputy 
division chief was a black named Jenkins 
Johnson. The division chief was an army 
captain. Not long after I arrived, my sec¬ 
tion was audited, and all of the jobs were 
downgraded to GS-2. 50 

Interviewees who worked in AFSA-213 singled 
out the tape to hard-copy conversion process as 
mind-numbing and document stamping as both 
boring and dirty. Further, they revealed that they 
worked under a production quota system. Scanners 
were required to review a minimum of 300 mes¬ 
sages per day, and page printers were required to 
print a minimum number of messages. If an 
employee met the daily quota, his/her name was 
posted on a board with a star. Monthly statistics 
were kept, and employees who regularly failed to 
meet their quotas were counseled. 51 This system of 
recognition/discipline was taken quite seriously by 
the subordinates, occasionally with most interest¬ 
ing consequences: 

Boxes of tapes would come in [to AFSA- 
213], and the only whites you would see 
were service guys that would bring them 
in. It was sort of funny, because some of 
the people that had been scanning for 
years knew the best tapes, the best links. 

We were working on quotas, and you 
wouldn’t want to get tapes from the bad 
links because you wouldn’t get anything 
from them. One lady almost fell in the box 
of tapes trying to get the best ones. 52 

The monotony of the tasks in AFSA-213 and the 
underutilization of people were recognized as early 
as 1948. According to Jack Gurin, founder of the 
Russian plaintext exploitation branch, it was he 
who initiated the scanning task in the traffic pro¬ 
cessing branch. Overwhelmed by the monthly traf¬ 
fic volumes, he sought to reduce the workload on 
his translators and use them more efficiently. 


There was this outfit that took these 
paper tapes where you couldn’t read them 
unless you could read these little holes. 
You put them into this machine. You make 
sure it’s all lined up properly, and you 
press the ‘on’ button. It starts typing and 
sheets of printed paper would come out. 
The equipment was called ‘Cxco’. I don’t 
remember what that stands for. These peo¬ 
ple, as I remembered, were all college 
graduates; all black and all college gradu¬ 
ates. Their job was to sit there and watch 
the machine and make sure it didn’t jam. If 
it jammed, you stopped the machine and 
pulled out the keys or fixed the paper. 
Then you started it again and waited for 
the next jam. That was their job. I looked at 
them and said this is ridiculous. They were 
college graduates. They all have some kind 
of brains. Since the traffic consisted of offi¬ 
cial messages, they always had the 
address. I took all the people in this outfit 
and taught them the elements of Russian, 
at least the alphabet. I gave them a sheet 
that said, this [unit] is number 27, this 
[unit] is number 29, and so forth. So what 
they did, as the stuff was coming off, they 
looked at it and looked at the address and 
put down the correct number. It wasn’t 
terribly challenging, but it was a lot better 
than what they were doing before. 53 


Low salaries, monotonous, routine tasks, and 
limited opportunities for advancement made for 
poor morale. In the summer of 1953, the Agency’s 
managers sought to mitigate the situation by piping 
in music. 


Equipment for the reception of music is 
being installed in the rear of wing 2, first 
floor, A Building. Since this is considered 
an area of low personnel morale as a result 
of recent downgrading and the monoto¬ 
nous work, it is believed the music will be 
well received. 54 


Page 21 


The music system was never installed. The docu¬ 
mentation contains no explanation, but the propos¬ 
al may have been abandoned because it was 
impractical. The audio would have had to have been 
at an ear-piercing level to be heard over the din of a 
hundred teletype machines. 

* * * * 



Despite uncomfortable working conditions and 
dim prospects for change, AFSA-213 employees 
delivered large quantities of messages to the 
Russian plaintext exploitation branch every month. 
Undoubtedly, most were 
motivated by the 
simple need to 
keep their 
employment. 

Iris Carr, 
however, 
expressed 
other con¬ 
tributors to 
her work 
ethic - pride 
of accom¬ 
plishment 
and, despite 
the racial dis¬ 
crimination she 
experienced, 
patriotism. At 
the age of thir¬ 
ty-three, she 
was older than most of the employees in AFSA-213 
and was cited by many as being an unheralded hero 
of the period - one who worked diligently and 
sought to motivate others. 


When I graduated from Prairie View 
College [Prairie View, Texas] in 1932, I 
received a Bachelor of Science degree with 
a double major, English and math. I 
taught school, first in a little town, Horton, 


Texas, and then in Austin. In Texas at that 
time, the highest level of education you 
could get was a B.S. or a B.A. degree. There 
were no other provisions for minorities. 
You could not go to the University of Texas 
or to any of the other white colleges. The 
state of Texas would pay your transporta¬ 
tion to go to another school because teach¬ 
ers were required to go to school every 
three years, hut I went every year because 
I wanted to get another degree. So, several 
summers I drove from Texas to New York 
to take courses at Columbia University. 

In 1944, I left Austin for Washington 
because they would not allow blacks to pay 
into the teacher’s retirement fund. I could 
see myself as a little old lady of sixty or 
seventy with no income and not able to 
work. I knew I had to get someplace where 
I could earn retirement benefits. I also 
wanted to do something to help out in the 
war. 

My first job was at the Office of the 
Recorder of Deeds. Then, after the war, 
schools were opened for veterans and a 
black electronics school [Hilltop Radio 
Electronics Institute] on U Street needed 
teachers. I graded math papers and taught 
business English in this school for 
radiomen and electricians. While I was 
working there I met Bernice Mills, who 
was working at the agency. She took my 
application in and shortly after that I was 
called for an interview. 

The work [in AFSA-213] was rather bor¬ 
ing, because it was the same thing every 
day. But if you knew what you were doing 
and what you were looking for, it was more 
interesting. We learned to read a Russian 
dictionary, and we could pick up bits of 
information on different tapes. From that, 


Page 22 






you would get an idea of what was going 
on. If something was completely irrele¬ 
vant, we would throw it away, but I 
explained to people that they had to be 
very careful to give the analysts all the 
messages we possibly can, because the 
work was important.... Most of the people 
I worked with were younger than I, and I 
felt an obligation to be as good as I could be 
to help them to be good. 5 



Leaders of AFSA-213, ca. 1951. 
(Photo courtesy of Clarence Pearson) 


Page 23 






















Chapter 6 — 1948-1951: Wanted - Key Punchers and Equipment 

Operators 


The AFSA mission ... is to provide 
authentic information for planners and 
policy makers within the National Military 
Establishment and other Governmental 
Agencies having membership on the 
United States Communication Intelligence 
Board to apprise them of the realities of 
the international situation, war-making 
capabilities, vulnerabilities and intentions 
of foreign countries, and to eliminate the 
element of surprise from an act of aggres¬ 
sion by another country. - Requirements for 
Conduct of an Optimum Communication 
Intelligence Program, 14 July 1950 56 

When armed conflict began in Korea in June 
1950, 390 employees (military and civilian) were 
assigned to the Machine Division. 57 Driven by the 
Agency’s operating philosophy that exhaustive col¬ 
lection and processing of Russian communications 
and extensive coverage of the communications of 
Communist China were required to execute its mis¬ 
sion, that number rose to 573 in March 1951. 58 
Cryptanalysis could be accomplished only through 
machine manipulation of the data, and as intercep¬ 
tion capabilities expanded, appropriate increases in 
processing personnel were required. Hiring of 
African-Americans to become tabulating equip¬ 
ment operators or key punchers exploded in the 
early 1950s. 

Local recruitment of operators and card punch¬ 
ers was intensive. In October 1951, the Agency’s 
personnel office reported that it had placed 
recruiters in the U.S. Employment Service and in 
the Department of the Army Office of Employee 
Coordination, which allowed them to interview a 
steady flow of applicants. 59 They had contacts at the 
Civil Service Commission, and recruiters worked to 
acquire applicants from other government agen¬ 
cies, such as the Veterans Administration, Census 


“I detested one thing about MPRO. The 
women had to do what we did and that was 
handle those boxes of cards and paper. I never 
liked that. The boxes were delivered to the 
area and were put in a corner. You had to pick 
them up, and it was heavy and hard lifting. 
Most of the time the fellows would help the 
girls.” 

Maurice Bush, 12 April 1999 


Bureau, and Government Accounting Office, that 
announced reductions in force (RIFs). Usually 
hired as GG-2S, the lowest pay scale, operators and 
card punchers frequently requested transfers out of 
the machine division soon after they reported for 
duty. Considering the physical demands of the jobs, 
a significant level of dissatisfaction is not surpris¬ 
ing: 

- Tabulating machine operators will be 
required to stand for long periods and to 
lift and carry trays of cards weighing 
approximately 20 pounds. 

- Keypunch machine operators will be 
required to sit at assigned machines for 
long periods. 

- Both tabulating and keypunch machine 
operators, GS-5 and below, will be 
required to work rotating shifts in a noisy 
atmosphere due to the machines. 

In most instances the skills and knowl¬ 
edge acquired in NSA-222 [IBM Branch] 
are not easily adapted to work in other 
branches, therefore time and money are 


Page 24 






expended unnecessarily when personnel 
request a transfer. 60 

Transfers were rare, and opportunities for 
advancement within the organization were limited, 
according to Maebelle Holmes, a college graduate 
who entered the Agency in 1949: 

I had just graduated from A&T and 
applied for a job. It seems that they were 
only accepting applications for key punch 
operator. I took the [typing] test, but didn’t 
pass - not fast enough. But they notified 
me that I could get a job in the IBM section, 
wiring boards. I was in the 8th wing. There 
were more blacks than whites, but key 
punch was virtually all black except for the 
supervisors. They started me as a GG-2. I 
was promoted to GG-3, then GG-4 and 
when I got be a GG-5 ,1 became a first line 
supervisor. I had about ten people working 
for me. I tried to get out. Openings would 
be posted on the board, and I would apply 
for something, but it was almost unknown 
to transfer. At that time, it seems like the 
whites would come in with no degree and 
in a little while they would move on up. 

They would go to lunch with the bosses, 
and would move right on up - not neces¬ 
sarily in the section in which they trained, 
but in another section across the aisle or in 
a different wing. 

I liked my job, but I felt that they weren’t 
always fair to us. 61 

Novella Carr, who entered the Agency in 
January 1951, spent the first twenty years of her 
career in the machine processing (MPRO) organi¬ 
zation. She talked not only about the lack of mobil¬ 
ity, but also about the negative effect security had 
on the flow of information about job opportunities: 

I came to the Agency in January 1951 
from the Veterans Administration where I 
was being riffed. I was in the 8th wing. 


MPRO was divided into three wings. The 
6th wing was the key punch operators and 
the 7th and 8th wings were tabulating 
equipment operators. When I went into 
the IBM [tabulating equipment] section it 
was 90 percent black, and the whites that 
were in there were not educated. All the 
supervisors were white. There were some 
black team captains and most of them had 
some college. And all the key punchers 
were black. Security was very tight. If you 
didn’t have a need to know, you couldn’t go 
into another section. We got to know some 
of the girls in key punch because the wings 
were open in the back and they would walk 
through our section to go to lunch. And 
you might know somebody in 213, which 
was all black, because you caught a ride 
with someone. So you never heard about 
vacancies. You didn’t get transferred. You 
just stayed. Supervisors would change, 
and they would reorganize, but you just 
stayed. 62 

* * * * 

Few memories of Arlington Hall Station are 
more vivid than those of the stifling heat. In that 
time, before air conditioning, windows were left 
open and huge fans were used to circulate the hot, 
humid air. In climate, as well as culture, the Agency 
was a southern institution. That image is evoked 
with remarkable clarity by the words of Dorothy 
Amis, who began a thirty-four-year career in the 
Agency as a tabulating equipment operator. 

Arlington Hall was a beautiful place. You 
see it was a former school, and they had 
beautiful landscaped gardens in front of 
the headquarters building. If it got too hot 
in the evening, from 4 to 12, well, you could 
go out and sit on the benches in the park 
area. And if it didn’t cool off, they would 
dismiss you for the evening. But in the 
morning, it would start getting hot around 
10. We would work right by the window, 


Page 25 


and all the windows were open. Novella 
was one of those people singing all of the 
time - singing and working on the 
machines. It was just a different environ¬ 
ment. 63 



Front view of Arlington Hall Station headquarters building 



Garden in rear of Arlington Hall Station headquarters building 


Page 26 










Chapter 7 - 1948: R&D — A Different Kind of Place 


It is the settled policy of the United States 
Government that there shall be no dis¬ 
crimination in Federal employment or in 
providing Federal services and facilities. - 
From the text of President Truman’s message to 
Congress on civil rights, 3 February 1948, New 
York Times. 

It is hereby declared to be the policy of 
the President that there shall be equality of 
treatment and opportunity for all persons 
in the armed services without regard to 
race, color, religion or national origin. - 
From Executive Order 9981, signed by Harry S. 
Truman, 26 July 1948. 

Despite President Truman’s call for fair 
employment in the federal government and the 
issuance of Executive Order 9981, the Russian 


plaintext traffic processing unit was essentially all 
black well into the 1950s, and African-Americans 
continued to predominate at the lower salary 
grades in the machine division. The standout 
exception to these realities was the hiring and 
placement of African-Americans by the Research 
and Development organization at AHS in 1948. 
During a period when the New York Times was 
accusing the Army of trying “to preserve a pattern 
of bigotry which caricatures the democratic cause 
in every corner of the world,” 64 the Agency hired its 
first black engineer, Carroll Robinson. He was 
assigned to the development team charged with 
building the Agency’s first in-house developed digi¬ 
tal computer, ABNER 1. Mitchell Brown and 
Charles Matthews, graduates of Hilltop Radio- 
Electronics Institute, a black-owned electronics 
school open to African-Americans in Washington, 
D. C., were also hired in 1948. With the title of engi- 



Carroll Robinson, the first 
African-American engineer at 
NS A 




Mitchell Brown 


Charles Matthews 
(later photo) 


Page 27 













neering technician, they too were placed in mean¬ 
ingful positions, working side by side with their 
white counterparts. By all accounts, the environ¬ 
ment for African-Americans in the Research and 
Development organization was generally positive 


and conducive to professional growth. Carroll 
Robinson became the Agency’s first African- 
American senior executive, retiring from federal 
service as an office chief. Mitchell Brown became an 
expert on technical devices and ended his career as 
test director of the Digital Voice Processor 
Consortium Test Program, which led to the 
selection of equipment for the secure telephone 
unit (STU) II. Charles Matthews was a project 
engineer on ABNER l (the first in-house 
designed digital computer), then SOLO, the 
Agency’s first transistorized special-purpose 
computer. He went on to hold a succession of 
supervisory and middle-management positions 
before retiring in 1988. Interviewed in 1999, 
Mr. Matthews provided a glimpse of the 
African-American experience in the 1940s: 


I was born in Washington and went to 
Dunbar High School. Toward the end of 
WWII, I went into the Army 
(Quartermaster Corps). I stayed in the 
Army about nine months, then when I 
returned I took advantage of the GI bill 
and took technical courses at Hilltop 
Radio-Electronics Institute. It was more or 
less a black counterpart to the Capital 
Radio Institute. The Agency was filled with 
graduates from Hilltop. I don’t know how 
we found out about the Agency. To my 


Hilltop Radio-Electronics Institute 


knowledge the Agency didn’t recruit, but I 


“[After the war] I had to find a job. They didn’t give electrical type work to blacks here, so I went 
on unemployment. As a veteran, I got 52-20. You got $20 for 52 months or $52 a month for 20 
months, something like that. I would go to the VA every month to sign for my check, and eventually 
I met a guy there, Mr. Hollywood, and told him that I was looking for work and my classification was 
electrician. He said that he doubted that I could find any work as an electrician, but there was a guy 
who repaired radios who might accept an apprentice. This was a black engineer, Mr. Gresham, who 
worked at the Bureau of Standards on very classified stuff. He was very well qualified and he took 
me on. When I went back to VA for my 52-20 check and told Mr. Hollywood that I had a job as an 
apprentice, he said that if this man would open a school, he could send him all the personnel that he 
needs. This was the founding of Hilltop Radio, and I was the first student.” 

Mitchell Brown, 24 June 1999 


Page 28 














and two others decided to apply. I was so 
anxious to get a job, I kept bugging them, 
and I was the first to get hired. That was in 
1948.1 was hired as an engineering techni¬ 
cian, Grade 9 (suhprofessional). It was a 
good start, but whites that were hired as 
engineering technicians with comparable 
experiences and sometimes less training 
were always hired at a higher grade than 
we were. Even though you were hired at a 
grade lower than your white counterpart, 
it was still a job, and it probably was a pret¬ 
ty good salary at the time - $2,100. Most of 
the blacks in the Agency at that time were 
making $1,440, and in the early ‘40s to 
mid- ‘40s most blacks in the government 
were in the custodial force or were mes¬ 
sengers. Even with a college education, 
that was the extent of employment. Then 
they started hiring them as clerks. The best 
jobs for blacks at that time were with the 
post office. 


Initially I started off tearing down equip¬ 
ment. Then the branch that I was in was 
tasked to work on the first digital comput¬ 
er, ABNER 1. We built ABNER 1. I wasn’t 
the only black in the organization. Carroll 
Robinson was there. He was an engineer 
and was hired shortly after I was hired. W. 

C. Syphax, a black engineer was in there; 
he built the power supply factory. But the 
majority of the organization was white, 
and they reacted to us very well. I never 
had any negative experiences. 

The Research and Development organization of 
the late 1940s to mid-1950s was not free of racism. 
In his interview, Mr. Brown supported the claim 
that white engineering technicians with less or 
comparable qualifications were hired at higher 
grades. Carroll Robinson noted that for many years 
blacks were not sent to overseas locations because 
of the commonly held belief that they would be 
unwelcome in the host country. These blots on the 
record notwithstanding, R & D in 1948 stands as a 
beacon of light in an otherwise dismal period in the 
Agency’s history of black employment. 65 


Page 29 


Chapter 8 — 1951: Color Barrier Broken in Security Division 


A National Agency Check is a good indi¬ 
cator of a person’s past life, but is of no 
assistance in determining that person’s 
present security risk. The use of a poly¬ 
graph for this purpose would reduce mate¬ 
rially the security risk involved in granting 
interim clearances.... A recommendation 
to allow the use of this machine is now 
pending before the director. - AFSA-16 
[Security Control Division] Monthly Operational 
Report, 12 January 1951 

Authority for the purchase of two Keeler 
polygraph machines and the employment 
and training of five persons was granted by 
DirAFSA, - AFSA-16 Monthly Operational 
Summary, January 1951 

Effort is being made to take advantage of 
a release of keypunch operators from the 
Bureau of the Census. Ninety keypunch 
applicants will be interviewed on 5 April 
1951 - AFSA-02 Semi-Monthly Report for 16-31 
March 1951 

The confluence of increased hiring of African- 
Americans, primarily for low-wage jobs in machine 
processing and traffic processing, and the introduc¬ 
tion of the polygraph as part of the security screen¬ 



ing process resulted in a crack in the all-white 
Security Division of AFSA. Raymond Weir, Jr., a 
D.C. schoolteacher, had served in the Army in 
WWII under Captain 
Fred Hazard. In 
November 1951, 
now Major 
Hazard, a 
branch chief 
in the 

Security 
Division, 
recruited 
and hired 
Mr. Weir 
as a poly- 
graph 
examiner - 
the black 

polygrapher 
for black 
applicants. 

Raymo 

He was a 

... . African-American 

trailblazer, 
becoming the 
first African- 

American polygraph examiner in the United States, 
and arguably the first African-American in the pro¬ 
fession anywhere in the world. 


“Notwithstanding the current personnel strength position of the Agency, the conclusion has 
been reached in this Division that to handle the employment problems of the Vint Hill Farms oper¬ 
ation, the interim operation at the new site and the certain turnover of personnel which is antici¬ 
pated at the time of the main move to Fort Meade, 66 we must at this time hire three additional inter¬ 
rogation technicians_The three individuals hired should he one female and two white male tech¬ 

nicians. Experience indicates that the requirement for an additional colored technician does not 
exist.” 

Monthly Operational Summary, Security Division, March 1953; NSA/CSS Archives Accession No. 42468 


Page 30 









Nevertheless, the Security Division - populated 
by individuals with investigative or law enforce¬ 
ment training, including FBI veteran S. Wesley 
Reynolds as the chief from May 1953 to December 
1961 - was viewed by many as the most conserva¬ 
tive Agency organization. 67 For years Ray Weir was 
restricted to interviewing only blacks at NSA. Not 
until the 1960s, and then only in careful stages, was 
he assigned a demographic cross-section of the 
Agency’s applicants. 

In December 1998, long after retiring as chief of 
the Investigations Division (M54), Mr. Weir 
recounted his story, including an amusing anecdote 
that illustrates the incongruity of locating an arm of 
the supersecret, intelligence agency in the heart of 
the black community: 

I was directly recruited into a program 
I’d never heard of. I was a schoolteacher in 
Washington at the time and the guy who 
did the recruiting was Major Fred Hazard, 
who was in Security. They wanted a black 
polygraph examiner. They were process¬ 
ing a lot of women at the time, key punch 
operators, most of whom were black, and 
somebody decided that it might he good if 
they had a black person be a polygrapher. 

Their problem was there were no black 
polygraph examiners anywhere. The 
Agency hired me and sent me to school in 
Chicago. 68 I graduated in, I guess, 
December 1951. 

When I came, there were no blacks in 
Security and there were none in 
Personnel. 69 Personnel and Security were 
collocated because we had to process their 
applicants. We were in the old Post Office 
building on “U” Street, and the Agency was 
trying to be very inconspicuous in the mid¬ 
dle of a black neighborhood. They were 
trying to be inconspicuous, but they 
deposited the training school there, where 
all these white kids were coming. My boss, 

Fred Hazard, the guy that hired me, was a 


former L.A. police officer, and he went 
around to a barber shop on U street to get 
his hair cut. He came back and said that 
when he went in the barber shop was full, 
but by the time he was finished, he and the 
barber were the only ones left. I told him 
that he must realize that the barber shop 
was the place where people met their 
neighbors for the day and heard the news, 
and he was in the way. Seriously, he looked 
like a cop, and so they made themselves 
scarce. Anyway, Security thought it was 
just wonderful that they were going to 
have a black person. But, of course, after I 
started to work for them, the problem was 
what did I do? Well, I was hired to test 
these black people who were being hired 
as key punch operators. I didn’t mind; they 
were paying me the same salary, as if I 
were testing everybody. But there were 
days they weren’t hiring [blacks] and I had 
nothing to do. 

Well, I didn’t think that would last. It 
finally came about that they had more peo¬ 
ple to interview than we had examiners, 
including me. I did work charts and that 
sort of thing to stay busy, but one day they 
said, ‘Ray, do you think you could handle 
one of these white people?’ I said, ‘yes’. 
After the first one or two came in and I had 
no problem, it was understood that I could 
interview white men, preferably from the 
north. Then, that fell by the wayside a little 
bit later on, and I could interview white 
men from the south. [Eventually] there 
was nothing but young white girls to be 
interviewed, and my boss said, ‘Ray, you 
think you can take one of these women?’ 
and I said, ‘yes’. I suppose this was in the 
1960s, late ’60s. This was the kind of thing 
that couldn’t be rushed. 

What the Agency wanted, what my super¬ 
visors wanted was to make sure that [who¬ 
ever] I interviewed would not have a legit- 


Page 31 


imate complaint about [the interview]. I 
don’t think that most of what I ran into in 
the Agency was prejudice, per se. There 
was an unwillingness to do things which 
would create problems, an unwillingness 
to do things which would cause any kind of 
publicity. 


Ray Weir rose to the top of his profession, 
becoming the first African-American president of 
the American Polygraph Association and a recog¬ 
nized industry expert who testified before the 
United States Senate Ethics Committee in its 1979 
financial misconduct investigation of Senator 
Herman Talmadge (D-Ga). 7 ° 


Page 32 


Chapter 9 - 1950-1934: Strides toward Broad Integration; 

Breakup of the Plantation 


During the 1940s the Office of Operations prob¬ 
ably consistently followed the military model, i.e., 
all black functional units were normally formed 
within larger white organizations. Herman Phynes, 
for example, was head of the commercial code sec¬ 
tion, which is believed to have remained a segregat¬ 
ed unit until it folded (probably around 1950). Bill 
Coffee, after leaving that section, supervised a 
group of typists that transcribed automatic Morse 
tapes. It is doubtful that this was a mixed group. An 
indication of the personal feelings and controversy 
that might have surrounded these black units is 
provided by a story told by Jack Gurin, chief of the 
Russian plaintext exploitation branch in 1948. 
According to Jack, the critical need for clerical sup¬ 
port prompted him to approach the personnel offi¬ 
cer with a request for additional typists. He was told 
that “Code l’s” were not available, but “Code 2’s” 
could be obtained. The coding, it was explained, 
was used on personnel records to designate race. 
“Code 1” was white; “Code 2” was “colored.” On the 
advice of the personnel officer, Gurin discussed 
with the existing branch personnel the possibility of 
bringing “Negroes” into the unit. One person, “a 
very dignified, good-looking Alabama lady, object¬ 
ed, stating that she could not ‘sit next to a colored 
person and work’.” Gurin relocated her desk, and 
shortly thereafter an African-American man and 
five women reported for duty. 71 Once again, howev¬ 
er, this was an all-black functional unit, in this case 
a typing section, within a larger white organization. 

Signs of change began to appear around 1950. 
According to Dave Bryant, by that year he had 
secured a transfer out of AFSA-213, the traffic pro¬ 
cessing branch, and was attending Russian lan¬ 
guage classes preparatory to working as a transla¬ 
tor/analyst in the Russian plaintext branch. James 
Pryde was another early escapee from “the planta¬ 
tion.” A former radio operator with the Tuskegee 
airmen, he joined the Agency in 1950 and was ini¬ 


An equally significant development in the early 
1950s was the hiring of African-Americans as entry- 
level analysts and linguists and, for the first time, 
their immediate integration into a target element, 
bypassing the traffic processing division altogether. 
Both Clarence Toomer and Arthur Davis graduated 
from Howard University in 1950, Mr. Toomer as a 
premed major, Mr. Davis with a concentration in 
German. In 1951, Mr. Toomer was an accounting 
clerk at the Census Bureau. Seeking a better posi¬ 
tion, he registered with the Labor Department as a 
job applicant and was subsequently interviewed at 
the Pentagon by a representative of the Department 
of Defense, in reality someone from AFSA. He was 
hired and entered on duty as a GS-4 cryptanalytic 
aide. Art Davis, meanwhile, had responded to an 
advertisement in the local newspaper for govern¬ 
ment linguists. He too joined the Agency in 1951 
and was placed in an intensive Russian language 



tially assigned to 
AFSA-213 and then 
the mailroom. 
Eventually, 
however, it 
was discov¬ 
ered that he 
could read 
automatic 
Morse tapes, 
and he was 
transferred 
to a signals 
analysis sec¬ 
tion. A brilliant 
career in Soviet 
exploitation fol¬ 
lowed, first as an ana¬ 
lyst, then as a manager 
and as a senior execu¬ 
tive. 72 


Page 33 






course. There he met his future sister-in-law, 
Royolla Franklin Davis, a newly hired GS-5 Slavic 
languages major from the University of California 
at Berkeley. Following their initial training, 
Clarence Toomer, Art Davis, and Royolla Franklin 
Davis worked as junior professionals in major 
Soviet exploitation divisions. 73 



Minnie McNeal, a native of Philadelphia, 
worked at the Commerce Department in 
Philadelphia, then the 
Census Bureau in 
Washington, after 
graduating from 
the Philadelphia 
High School for 
Girls. She also 
never worked 
in the all¬ 
black traffic 
division or in 
machine pro¬ 
cessing, but in 
a 1999 inter¬ 
view, she 
described 
how she 
narrowly 
escaped 
that fate: 

Minnie McNeal Kenny 
(later photo) 


I came to be interviewed at Arlington 
Hall in 1951, and there was a woman. I 
don’t know her name, but she was white 
and she had also graduated from the 
Philadelphia High School for Girls. She 
recognized my class ring, and she not only 
hired me, she vowed that I would not be 
‘going down in the hole’. I didn’t have the 
slightest idea what she was talking about. I 
was just glad that I had a job. I went for 
processing, and when I came back, she 
assigned me upstairs. There was a group of 
us [including] Barbara Barnes, Bess [nfi], 


and Priscilla [nfi] [upstairs]. Most of the 
blacks at that time were assigned to the 
basement. We were [in] the first group 
whose initial assignment was upstairs in 
Operations in B Building. We were 
assigned to the ‘U’ Street School, and we 
stayed there until we got our clearances or 
whatever. We came as a group to the 
organization. We all worked under Sam 
Hall on what they call ALLO [all other tar¬ 
gets]. We were dispersed throughout the 
place. 74 

Clarence Toomer, Art Davis, Royolla Franklin 
Davis, and Minnie McNeal Kenny represented a 
new breed of African-American employee in the 
Operations Directorate. They were hired at the GS- 
4 or GS-5 level, higher than the starting grades 
offered to African-Americans in MPRO or Russian 
plaintext traffic processing and equivalent to that 
given most whites with comparable qualifications. 
They were immediately placed in intensive training 
programs to prepare them for professional careers 
as a linguist or cryptanalyst, and upon completion 
of training, they were assigned to substantive target 
exploitation problems in a totally integrated envi¬ 
ronment. Not until well after they entered on duty 
did they learn of the existence of AFSA-213. Fellow 
Howard University graduates who were also hired 
by the Agency, but sent to “the snakepit,” asked 
Clarence Toomer how it happened that he was 
assigned to an analytic organization. He did not 
have an answer. 

How were these young professional people of 
color received in the workplace? The reports are 
mixed. Most said that the work environment was, at 
least superficially, generally free of racial overtones. 
Their desks were intermixed with the others; they 
occasionally ate lunch with their white colleagues in 
the cafeteria; and advanced training in the core dis¬ 
ciplines of the agency - language, traffic analysis, 
and cryptanalysis - was readily obtained. But they 
still experienced the occasional slight; racial slurs 
were overheard in office conversation; and few 
African-Americans were assigned to the organiza- 


Page 34 


tion working on the highest priority Russian sys¬ 
tems. Tours at external locations were difficult to 
come by, and as their careers progressed, there 
appeared to be a “glass ceiling” that dictated, at the 
executive level, that they were usually the “brides¬ 
maid,” or deputy, seldom the bride. 

The sense of an undercurrent of racial bias was 
understandable. In the early fifties, not only were 
the all-black enclaves still very much in operation 
inside the Agency, but the external environment 
was still essentially segregated. Eugene Becker, who 
retired as the assistant deputy director for support 
services in 1992, described aspects of Washington 
life and the Armed Forces Security Agency when he 
entered on duty in January 1952. 

I was struck by the fact that the bus that 
I rode out to Arlington Hall was a segregat¬ 
ed bus, because you transferred from the 
District bus and trolley to Virginia buses at 
the Federal Triangle. So I got on the bus 
that took you to Arlington, and it was seg¬ 
regated. This was 1952 .1 remember being 
struck by that. Having gone to school in the 
district [George Washington University], I 
knew that the movie theaters were segre¬ 
gated. I remember going to the Blue 
Mirror. That was the club where you had 
whites and Afro-Americans mixing. There 
were not many of them. But I had never 
given it a thought that the bus system in 
Northern Virginia was still segregated. 
Washington in those days was a Southern 
town, totally dominated by Southern cul¬ 
ture. 

The fellow that I talked to in my inter¬ 
view was clearly on the Russian problem. I 
could decipher that much from his ques¬ 
tions and the way he inquired about my 
interests, but before my final clearance 
came through, it was decided that I would 
go in a class. I think there were five of us 
that started in an Arabic class. I think that 
it was the first one begun at the Agency. 


We went to the school on U Street and 
14th, the old post office building, for six 
months. We had a great instructor. The 
agency language department was excellent 
at that time. We were in an all-white class, 
as were most of the classes. I don’t remem¬ 
ber seeing any Afro-Americans in the lan¬ 
guage classes at the time. There may have 
been one or two that came in while we 
were going through our six-month period, 
but on reporting for work in January, I 
don’t remember seeing any in the school. 

The Agency is a microcosm of the nation 
at large. It was neither ahead of it or 
behind it, and so it reflected, to a precise 
degree, what was going on - what the 
country was. The workforce had a liberal 
cast, but seeded among the workforce 
were plenty of racists. They were not hard 
to find. That was palpable in the place. You 
knew who they were. 75 


“[In Washington], we went to our own 
segregated areas. We went to our own 
clubs, our own theaters. We had nice the¬ 
aters, nice clubs, so you didn’t realize you 
were being segregated that much. It was¬ 
n’t something that was bothersome. We 
had the Lincoln theater, the Booker T., 
and in northeast [Washington], we had 
the Strand theater.” 

Carroll Robinson, 8 June 1999 


* * * * 


Page 35 




By the mid-fifties, there were even positive 
changes within the traffic processing division (now 
designated NSA-63) and the machine section. Carl 
Dodd, an NSA-63 supervisor, drafted job descrip¬ 
tions for the other leaders in the organization which 
eventually were approved and resulted in an 
upgrade of all positions in the division. 76 An inter¬ 
view with William Pinchback, however, revealed 
that although measured progress had been 
achieved by 1955, remnants of the old practices 
were still very much evident. Mr. Pinchback, a for¬ 
mer Army cryptologic operator and a 1950 graduate 
of Storer College, entered on duty in 1954 as a GS-3 
communications clerk in NSA-63. He was assigned 
to a recently added branch that received, sorted, 
and distributed hard copy messages (other than 
Russian plaintext radioprinter). At that time, he 
recalled, whites were occasionally hired and 
assigned to his unit and that one, with only a high 
school diploma, was brought in at a higher grade 
than he. The system was slowly changing, however, 
for this time, after the unfairness was brought to the 
attention of the section chief, Mr. Pinchback was 
promoted with less than the minimum time in 
grade. The next year, Mr. Pinchback applied for an 
advertised vacancy for a cryptanalytic aide. In a 
then rare demonstration of equal opportunity in 
competitive selection, he was interviewed and cho¬ 
sen for the job. Once in his new office, his supervi¬ 
sor confided that Pinchback’s army experience as a 
code clerk, coupled with the scores that he achieved 
on Agency aptitude tests, indicated that he would 
be a good cryptanalyst. In the mid-fifties, though, 
these facts and a college degree had not prevented a 
black man from being hired as a GS-3 and being ini¬ 
tially assigned to the mailroom in the National 
Security Agency. 77 

Significant professional advancement for 
African-Americans in the machine division during 
the 1950s was limited, but James Bostic broke con¬ 
vention. In 1952 he left the Census Bureau and 
joined AFSA as a tabulating equipment operator. A 
gifted, largely self-taught programmer and systems 
analyst, he became known as the “the Optimizer” 
during a career that paralleled the agency’s 



advancements in 
computer technol¬ 
ogy. An early 
tour in ABNER 
1 operations 
was followed 
by assign¬ 
ment as a 
program¬ 
mer on 
ABNER 2 
and as a 
software 
designer for a 
mass file stor¬ 
age and retrieval 
system. Before 
retiring in 1986, 
he led the termi¬ 
nal subsystem 
development 
team for a 
UNIX-based system. 


James Bostic, 

The Optimizer 
(undated from the 1970s) 


* * * * 

The Research and Development organization, 
already home to a number of African-American 
males in engineering specialties, was also breaking 
other barriers in 1951. Vera Shoffner Russell, an 
African-American mathematician, reported to the 
Agency that year and was assigned as a program¬ 
mer on the early computers, ABNER 2, ATLAS 1, 
and ATLAS 2. But the glass was only half full. She 
believes, as do the vast majority of African- 
Americans hired before 1954, that she started at a 
lower grade than similarly qualified whites. Her 
story also includes familiar references to the 
employment options for educated blacks in the 
1950s and to the harsh realities of segregation: 

I graduated in 1951 from West Virginia 
State College and took the test for math 
majors at the U.S. Employment Center in 
Charleston. I was a math and physics 


Page 36 





major and had an offer to teach school in 
Winston-Salem [North Carolina], but I 
didn’t want to teach. At the time, however, 
for the most part, when [blacks] came out 
of college, you went to teach. Teaching and 
preaching were the only things open. 
Then, I got this letter to come to 
Washington and take a physical at the 
Pentagon. Shortly thereafter, I came into 
the Agency, which was located at the time 
on Arlington Boulevard. Now, my maiden 
name was Shoffner, and West Virginia 
is only three percent black, so my 
notification of hiring, which I 
saw in my personnel folder 
years later, carried a Sv’, and 
they offered me a GS-5. 

When I got here, they asked 
if I would accept a 4.1 took 
it. I didn’t know anything 
about 



GS ratings, and I really think they offered 
me the job because they thought I was 
white. As far as segregation goes, I did bet¬ 
ter in West Virginia, because Washington 
would make you stand in carry-out lines. 
But you didn’t have that in West Virginia. 
The first year I came here, I sat up at the 
drugstore counter down on Connecticut 
Avenue, and I opened the compartment 
and took a donut. And all the commotion! 
All the waitresses were white, and they 
kept going back and forth - passing me. I 
wanted a cup of coffee, and nobody 
gave me a cup. So, the guy from 
behind the cigar counter came up 
and told me, ‘We do not serve 
colored people at the count¬ 
er’. 79 


Vera Russell 
(later photo) 


Page 37 









Epilogue 


I was so involved in what the Agency 
stood for, and I wanted it to be better. I had 
a feeling that things were going to get bet¬ 
ter. Everybody in there was not evil. I felt 
that one day African-Americans would 
break out of this box and be able to go into 
reporting or personnel or other areas, if 
they were prepared. I preached - be pre¬ 
pared - Iris Carr, 30 June 1999 

In 1956, as part of a major Agency reorganiza¬ 
tion, NSA-63, the successor to AFSA-213 and 
AFSA-211 (another receipt and distribution unit 
with a high percentage of African-Americans), was 
dissolved. Many blacks, particularly the tape print¬ 
ers, moved to the new collection organization 
where they continued to perform the tasks of 
receiving, converting, and distributing intercept 
data. A large number of the scanners, however, and 
many who had worked on the staff of NSA-63 were 
transferred to various divisions in GENS, Office of 
General Studies, where they successfully pursued 
careers as analysts, staff officers, and managers. 

As a group, African-Americans suffered from 
institutional racism at Arlington Hall Station. The 
segregationist policies of the Army were strictly 
enforced during the war years and, with the singu¬ 
lar exception of Research and Development, were 
generally followed for years thereafter. It was a 
white-male-dominated environment that reflected 
Army racial policies and southern attitudes. 
African-Americans were routinely hired at lower 
grades and shuffled into the most menial jobs. They 
waited longer for fewer promotions and received 
less training, which constrained their opportunities 
to assume higher-paying positions. 

Early in the 1950s, as the Army’s long-standing 
support for the “separate, but equal” doctrine 
faded, barriers at AHS began to crumble. African- 


Americans were hired not only as keypunches and 
clerks, but also as analytic aides, linguists, and 
mathematicians. Some that had entered the Agency 
through the all-black traffic processing division 
successfully transferred to organizations that held 
the promise for challenging, rewarding work in a 
racially integrated environment. The contributions 
of whites who acted as agents for change during this 
period cannot be overlooked or underestimated. 
African-Americans who started their careers during 
the early fifties and rose to leadership positions 
acknowledged the assistance and mentorship of 
many Caucasians, several of whom, Melba 
McCarthy, Benson Buffham, and Jack Gurin, were 
interviewed for this manuscript. 

The dissolution of NSA-63 erased a visible and 
notorious manifestation of racial separation, but 
questions about equality in recruitment, hiring, 
assignments, job training, awards, and promotions 
continued to be raised for years afterwards. Many 
of those who started at Arlington Hall Station 
became the Agency’s social activists of the 1960s 
and 1970s at its new location, Fort Meade, 
Maryland. There, new chapters in the African- 
American experience at NSA would be written. 


Page 39 




End Notes 

1. Alan M. Osur, Blacks in the Army Air Forces dur¬ 
ing WWII: The Problem of Race Relations (Washington, 

D.C., 1977), 11. 

2. Bernard C. Nalty and Morris J. MacGregor, eds., 
Blacks in the Military: Essential Documents 
(Wilmington, DE, 1981), 108. 

3. Ulysses Lee, The Employment of Negro Troops 
(Washington, D.C., 1994), 111-112. 

4. Nalty and MacGregor, Blacks in the Military, 114- 
115- 

5. Osur, Blacks in the Army Air Forces during 
WWII, 5. 

6. Lee, The Employment of Negro Troops, 45. 

7. Osur, Blacks in the Army Air Forces during 
WWII, 5. 

8. Charles H. Wesley, The Quest for Equality: From 
the Civil War to Civil Rights (Cornwell Heights, PA, 
1969), 176. 

9. CCH oral history interview with Carl Dodd, 14 
July 1999. 

10. NSA predecessor organizations carried various 
names between 1930 and 1952, i.e., Signal Intelligence 
Section, Signals Security Service, Signal Security Branch, 
Signal Security Division, Signal Security Agency, Army 
Security Agency, and Armed Forces Security Agency. 

11. Frank B. Rowlett, The Story of Magic: Memoirs 
of an American Cryptologic Pioneer (Laguna Hills, CA, 
1998), 47- 

12. James L. Gilbert and John P. Finnegan, eds., U.S. 
Army Signals Intelligence in World War II, 
(Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1993), 
26-27. 

13. History of the Signal Security Agency, Vol. 1, 
Part 1, Organization, 12-16, 38-52. 

14. Personnel records of Bernard W. Pryor and inter¬ 
view with Delores Schommer, 6 May 1999, who entered 
on duty with SIS on 16 July 1940. According to Mrs. 
Schommer, Bernie was the single messenger for the 
organization. 

15. Constance McLaughlin Green, The Secret City: A 
History of Race Relations in the Nation’s Capital 
(Princeton, NJ, 1967), 231. According to records main¬ 
tained by the Office of Workforce Information, Official of 
Personnel Management, the total number of civilians 


employed by the federal government in 1938 was 
882,226. 

16. Personnel Clearances and Historical Study, NSA 
Archives-ACC#i7862. 

17. Memo from E.S. Turner, Adjutant General, to 
Chief Signal Officer, 18 April 1942, NSA Archives - 
ACC#i898i. 

18. History of the Signal Security Agency, Vol. 1, 
Part 1, 88. 

19. NARA RG457, Box 1027, Signal Security Agency 
- Personal Interviews, July 15-September 1943. 

20. CCH oral history interview, General Earle F. 
Cooke, 15 July 1982. 

21. Personnel Records, William D. Coffee. 

22. Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet (New 
York, 1998), 112-116. 

23. History of the Signal Security Agency, Volume 
Two: The General Cryptanalytic Problem, 229-230. 

24. Ibid. 

25. Memo for the Control Officer, SSA, from SPSIS- 
9 (Intelligence Branch), 15 September 1944, RG457, Box 
1005, ACC#io6i6. 

26. Mission and functions, B-3-b and organizational 
charts, 15 November 1944 and 1 February 1945, NARA, 
RG457, Box 843, ACC#646. 

27. Ibid. 

28. Mission and functions, B-3-b; CCH oral history 
interview with Benson K. Buffham, 15 June 1999. 

29. Mission and functions, B-3-b; personnel records 
of Herman Phynes. 

30. Personnel records of Bernard Pryor. 

31. The plans and priorities officer developed collec¬ 
tion plans and adjusted the tasking for intercept sites to 
meet changing requirements. 

32. CCH oral history interview with Benson K. 
Buffham, 15 June 1999. 

33- B-3-b organizational chart, NARA RG457, Box 
843, ACC#646. 

34. Intercept and Control Branch Annual Report, 
1945-1946; NSA/CSS Archives, ACC#i7394; personnel 
records, William D. Coffee. 

35. Annual Report of the Cryptanalytic Branch, July 
1945-June 1946; NSA/CSS Archives ACC#47439 and 
personnel records of Herman Phynes. 


Page 40 


36. History of the Signal Security Agency, Volume 
11: The Machine Branch, published by ASA, Washington, 
D.C., 1948. 

37. CCH oral history interview with Norm Willis, 11 
January 1999. 

38. Dr. Solomon Kullback was one of the three pio¬ 
neering “junior cryptanalysts” hired by William 
Friedman in April 1930. Harry Lawrence Clark joined 
SIS later that year as a cryptographic clerk to analyze 
secret inks. Sam Snyder entered on duty with SIS in 1936 
and worked as a cryptanalyst on both Italian and 
Japanese systems prior to WWII. Colonel Spencer Ball 
Akin was O.I.C., Signal Intelligence Service, 25 July 
1939-2 May 1941. 

39. CCH oral history interview with Delores 
Schommer, 5 May 1999. 

40. Phone interview with David Shepard, 22 May 
2000. 

41. CCH oral history interview with Geneva Trusty 
Arthur, 28 September 1999. 

42. History of GENS-6 Civil Division of Office of 
General Studies; NSA/CSS Archives, ACC#9895, and 
CCH oral history interviews with Jacob Gurin on 26 
April 1995 and 15 October 1999. 

43. CCH oral history interviews with Jacob Gurin, 26 
April 1995 and 15 October 1999, and David Bryant, 23 
February 1999. 

44. Thomas R. Johnson, American Cryptology dur¬ 
ing the Cold War, 1945-1989, Book I: The Struggle for 
Centralization, 1945-1960 (CCH-E32-95-03), 168. 

45. 27 March 1950 memorandum from C.P. Collins, 
Chairman USCIB Intelligence Committee to Coordinator 
of Joint Operations; NSA/CSS Archives, ACC#8243. 

46. Report by the Director, Armed Forces Security 
Agency, to the Armed Forces Security Council on 
Requirements for Conduct of an Optimum 
Communication Intelligence Program, 14 July 1950; 
NSA/CSS Archives, ACC#522i. 

47. From 1949 until sometime in 1951, AFSA-213 
was a branch. A December 1951 organizational chart 
shows AFSA-213 as a division. A reorganization in 
August 1952 resulted in a new designator, AFSA-29. 
When NSA was created, AFSA-29 became NSA-63. In 
the interest of simplicity and consistency, the Russian 
radioprinter traffic processing division will usually be 
referred to by the earlier designator, AFSA-213. 


48. Undated and unsigned report; however, a pen¬ 
ciled notation indicates it was authored before 31 May 
1950; NSA/CSS Archives ACC#8243. Data extracts from 
the paper later appeared in the 14 July 1950 report from 
the director, AFSA, to the Armed Forces Security 
Council. 

49. NSA oral history interview with William Jones 
conducted by R.D. Farley on 14 August 1986. 

50. CCH oral history interview with Richard Hill, 18 
October 1999. The low grade structure was confirmed in 
other interviews and by the personnel records of 
Jefferson Tancil, a supervisor in the traffic division. 
From January 1950 to November 1951, he was a GS-6 
section chief responsible for eighteen to thirty communi¬ 
cations clerks, GG-2 to GG5. 

51. CCH oral history interviews: William Byrd on 8 
March 1999; Richard Hill on 18 October 1999; and Carl 
Dodd (by phone), 17 May 1999. 

52. CCH oral history interview with Bernice Mills on 
10 November 1999. 

53. Jack Gurin interview, 15 October 1999. 

54. Comptroller Monthly Operational Summary, 
July 1953; NSA/CSS Archives, ACC#42468. 

55. CCH oral history interview with Iris Carr, 16 June 
1999. 

56. Report by the Director, AFSA, to the Armed 
Forces Security Agency Council, 14 July 1950, 3; 
NSA/CSS Archives, ACC#522i. 

57 - Ibid., 36. 

58. AFSA-02 Semi-Monthly Report for 16-31 March 
1951; NSA/CSS Archives ACC#42468. 

59. AFSA-153 Monthly Operational Summary, 
October 1951; NSA/CSS; NSA/CSS Archives, 
ACC#42468. 

60. Memorandum, “Excessive Number of Transfer 
Requests,” from Deputy Head, NSA-222 (IBM Branch) 
to NSA-220A (Assistant Chief for Administrative 
Management, Machine Division), 2 December 1952; 
NSA/CSS Archives ACC#26o6. 

61. Oral history interview with Maebelle Holmes, 26 
April 1999. 

62. Oral history interview with Novella Carr, 19 
January 1999. 

63. CCH oral history interview with Dorothy Amis, 
19 February 1999. 


Page 41 


64. Morris J. MacGregor, Jr., Integration of the 
Armed Forces, 1940-1965, (Washington,D.C.: Center for 
Military History, 1989), 363, footnote 81. 

65. Information in this chapter obtained from the 
following oral history interviews: Carroll Robinson, 8 
June 1999; Charles Matthews, 22 June 1999; Mitchell 
Brown, 24 June 1999. 

66. By 1949 AFSA had outgrown the temporary 
buildings and converted dormitories at Arlington Hall 
Station. Also, in the wake of the national angst over the 
Soviet Union’s first nuclear test, AFSA was directed by 
the JCS to identify a standby or disaster site outside the 
metropolitan Washington area. The two requirements 
were merged, and Fort Knox, Kentucky, was selected as 
the site for a new headquarters and operations building. 
This decision was reversed, however, when the prospect 
of massive civilian resignations became apparent, and 
the search continued. Several sites in northern Virginia 
and Maryland were considered, but on 5 February 1952 
Fort Meade was officially chosen as the new location for 
AFSA. 

67. Other examples of appointments to the Office of 
Security: Two former FBI employees and one former 
ONI employee were chosen to become the Special 
Research Unit (investigations of alleged employee 
wrongdoings). Monthly Operational Summaries, 
Security Division, February and March 1953; NSA/CSS 
ACC#42468. 


68. Chicago was the home of the Keeler Institute, the 
training school for polygraph examiners. 

69. This is inaccurate. At least one African- 
American, Bernie Pryor, was an employee counselor in 
the personnel division at this time. 

70. Polygraph: Journal of the American Polygraph 
Association, December 1979, Vol. 8, No. 4. 

71. CCH interview with Jack Gurin, 15 October 1999. 

72. CCH interview with James Pryde, 15 December 
1998. 

73. CCH oral history interviews with Clarence 
Toomer, 12 January 2000, and Arthur Davis, 8 February 
2000. 

74. CCH oral history interviews with Minnie McNeal 
Kenny, 30 March 1999. ALLO targets were those other 
than the Soviet Union. 

75. CCH oral history interview with Eugene Becker, 
19 January 1999. 

76. CCH oral history interview with Carl Dodd, 2 
April 1999. 

77. CCH oral history interview with William 
Pinchback, 25 January 1999. 

78. CCH oral history interview with James Bostic, 4 
November 1999. 

79. CCH oral history interview with Vera Russell, 8 
February 1999. 


Page 42 



J eannette Williams retired from the National Security Agency in 1998 
after thirty-five years of service. During the 1960s and 1970s, at the 
height of the arms race, she was an intelligence analyst and report¬ 


ed extensively on missile and space activities. Later in her career, she 
assumed successively responsible management positions, including 
assignments as the Agency's senior operational officer and as an assis¬ 
tant inspector general. Since retiring from federal service, Mrs. Williams 
has been employed as a principal research analyst with Logicon DPC 
Technologies under contract to NSA. 

Mrs. Williams holds a degree in English from Ohio State University and is 
a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute and the National Senior 
Cryptologic Course. She resides in Carroll County, Maryland, with her 
husband, Walter, and enjoys the arts, gardening, reading, and commu¬ 
nity affairs. 



M s. Dickerson began her career at NSA in 1967 in computer opera¬ 
tions. After holding numerous analytic and administrative posi¬ 
tions, Ms. Dickerson worked in the National Cryptologic School as 
an education and training officer and adjunct faculty member. While at 
the School, she served as a member of a career development panel. A 
member of Women in NSA, Ms. Dickerson assisted in education and 
career advancement for women in the Agency. Toward the end of her 
career, she served in the Center for Cryptologic History as a historian. 
After retiring from NSA in 1998, Ms. Dickerson worked under contract as 
a senior systems analyst in the NSA Technology Support Division and 
later as a senior research analyst in the Center for Cryptologic History. 

A graduate of the University of Baltimore, Ms. Dickerson holds a B.A. 
degree in sociology and business management. She is married, the par¬ 
ent of four and grandmother of four. Ms. Dickerson resides in Anne 
Arundel County, Maryland, and presently works at the Museum of 
Industry in Baltimore, Maryland, as a docent coordinator. 


Page 43